Posts Tagged ‘print publications’

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.


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Google “decline of print media” and you’ll get more than 8.1 million search results. Many, if not most, are articles and blog posts forecasting the demise of printed newspapers. 

Just the other day, in fact, Seth Godin predicted in a post that, by the year 2012, there will be “no significant newspapers printed on newsprint in the U.S.”

Dire predictions for magazines aren’t quite as voluminous or vociferous. But in today’s business the drumbeat for digital media is so loud and constant, it would be easy for marketers to be left with the message “Print is dead!” ringing in their ears.

Here then, a post that sings the praises of printed publications. More specifically, the custom (i.e., corporate-sponsored) magazine.


The Ultimate Direct Marketing Piece

While a custom magazine is by no means the right marketing solution for every organization in every industry, it remains — done right — an extremely effective tool for building brand, sparking engagement and creating game-changing impact among an audience that matters to your business success.

If you’ve never considered adding a custom magazine to your marketing mix, it’s worth a look. I like to call a well-done magazine the most powerful direct marketing piece you can deliver to customers and potential customers.

But aren’t magazines expensive, you might ask, especially given the costs of paper and postage? Granted, a well-executed, measurably effective magazine does not come cheap.

But when budgeting one recently, it dawned on me: The client (using not atypical specs) could produce a high-impact magazine, and mail it four times each year to tens of thousands of people, for about what it would cost to buy each of those contacts a nice lunch at a mid-price restaurant.

So, what’s it worth to essentially pick up lunch for your most important customers or prospects? But instead of feeding them once, which is fleeting, you touch them multiple times. And each touch nurtures the relationship by delivering a differentiated, relevant experience that none of your competitors comes close to matching.

You’ve gotta admit, it’s food for thought.


Printed Magazines Keep Keeping On

You needn’t look far to find custom magazines at the center of remarkably successful marketing efforts in all sorts of industries, from financial services and automotive to manufacturing and retail. In fact, I don’t have to look at all. I work daily with content strategists, editors and designers who produce one of the most award-winning, strategically effective B-to-B custom magazines in recent U.S. business history.

I’m also a neighbor of Readex Research, among the most experienced firms in the country when it comes to testing attitudes and engagement among publication readers.

Between 1999 and 2007, Readex conducted more than 770 studies of magazine readers — the large majority B-to-B publications, but also some consumer and custom. In the context of marketing, these surveys are the equivalent of core samples drilled from the polar ice caps. They might have something almost geologic to tell us about content in magazine format. Here’s what the samples show:

After receiving four magazines over the course of the previous year, the majority of readers surveyed (again, over nearly a decade, and across more than 700 different surveys) said they had:

  • read each of the issues
  • read more than half of the content in each issue
  • devoted nearly an hour to each issue

“These results,” noted Readex in a recent newsletter, “indicate that printed publications cut through the information clutter and still deliver an engaged circulation. On average, the common metrics typically used to measure reader involvement with print publications haven’t experienced erosion.

“Printed publications aren’t nearing the end of their life,” Readex concluded, “nor do they seem to be slipping away.”

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