We often hear publishing’s print vs. online evolution framed as a winner-take-all death match. A zero-sum game, with Web-based publishing models certain to wind up with all the chips.
From your Man Bites Dog Marketing News Team, here’s one of today’s top stories:
The Internet is growing as a source of print magazine subscriptions.
That’s right. Apparently lots of people are not only finding their way to print media, they’re actually opting to pay for that printed content, via the Web.
According to a study by the Magazine Publishers of America, subscription sales generated through the Web are expected to account for 22 percent of all new subscriptions sold this year. That number has climbed steadily since the MPA began tracking in 2006, when the Internet accounted for 13 percent of total new (vs. renewal) subscription sales.
MPA president and CEO Nina Link said, “The web is becoming the number one source for direct-to-publisher subscriptions for member magazines.” The MPA study also found that magazine-branded sites are the leading source of Internet-originated subscriptions, accounting for 45 percent of all subscription sales.
In other words, the online counterparts to print magazines are playing a dominant role in keeping readers engaged with, and paying for, print.
Those confidently predicting the imminent demise of print might be interested to learn that the Web, itself, is increasingly responsible for pumping revenue lifeblood into print publishing.
Integrated Content Delivery
What does this mean to content marketers and traditional trade and consumer publishers?
At risk of reading too much into a single set of stats, these new MPA numbers seem to suggest that print vs. online is more complex than a zero-sum game. While many publishers and advertisers are questioning the future of print, it appears audiences themselves aren’t necessarily losing their appetite for printed content.
Further evidence: Readex, one of the nation’s leading reader research firms, has conducted more than 750 magazine reader studies since 1999. Over that decade, their studies have shown scarcely an iota of slippage in the popularity and value that consumer and trade audiences attach to magazines.
Granted, the future of magazines — and print publishing in general – remains an open and fluid question. One new set of data points does not crystal-ball clarity create.
Still, it’s the fearless prediction here that the successful publishers (and content marketers) going forward won’t simply be the ones with the strongest, stand-alone Web presences.
Instead, the fully effective and engaging content offerings will be those serving relevant, differentiated information, interactions and experiences from a four-legged “table”:
- An outstanding print publication
- A dynamic Web complement to the print
- Events (in-person, online or both)
- Otherengagement channels (likely, some smart combination of social media followings and online conversations and communities)
If you’re a traditional publishing company, you might want to think twice before discontinuing that flagship print publication. Redesign it, maybe. Rethink it, probably. Look for breakthrough ways for print to complement online, and vice versa. Definitely.
But outright cancel it? You might be unliterally disarming, only to discover competitors now have a clear advantage, offering the audience something they still want and value.
For custom publishers, give due consideration to print in your delivery equation going forward, even if you do so in a reduced or less traditional fashion. Quarterly instead of monthly. Bi-annual instead of quarterly. Even an annual, ”best of” print vehicle might end up being the content tool that clearly differentiates your brand from the others when it comes to adding value for your target audience.
Print vs. online?
Chances are, if you were to ask your audience, they’d say: “I’ll take some of each, please.”
As we balance economics and audience engagement, the challenge — and opportunity — is to find that optimal blend and symbiosis.
Comments Welcome: What’s your perspective on print vs. online delivery of content? Is your organization rethinking print, or abandoning it? Or maybe you’re investing more in print, as a counter to prevailing trends? Still reading your favorite magazine, but it’s now via Kindle? Would welcome your comments and predictions.