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  • Writer's pictureShawn "The Magazine Guy!"

“Magazines are alive and well”: Publishers refresh their strategies for the print format

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

By Faisal Kalim

There is a lot of talk about print publications being in decline, but some publishers have been using their strengths to adapt their print publications to the current environment and getting positive results. “The old trope that print is dead is just lazy thinking,” says Linda Thomas Brooks, President, and CEO at MPA—the Association of Magazine Media.

Transforming less into more

Several publishers who are successful in the print media are focusing on niche audiences who are willing to pay more for a higher grade product. They are creating higher quality products for them, and some are also cutting down on the frequency.

Adi Ignatius, Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Business Review, calls the print version of HBR their “crown jewel.” Yet a couple of years back he cut down on its print frequency and bought down the number of issues from 10 to 6 a year. This was not because he wanted to cut back on losses from declining interest in print. The move led to a 10% increase in subscribers. The growth has been attributed to a combination of smart positioning, creative new digital benefits, and heavier investment in the six print issues.

Bonnier Publishing reduced the frequency of its magazine Popular Science from monthly to quarterly last year. At the same time, it increased the cost of subscriptions. As a result, it saw a 30% year-over-year increase in subscription yield. Bonnier was also able to convince advertisers about the viability of reaching out to higher value consumers that spend on their magazines. The majority of Bonnier’s titles including Popular Science, Cycle World, Outdoor Life, and Saveur exceeded their print ad goals for 2018.

"Instead of trying to put out a smaller editorial folio and reducing the paper stock, we’re doing higher quality paper stock and increasing the editorial folio to give the subscriber something of worth when it arrives. But we’re also charging them more money for it."
Gregory Gatto, Executive VP, Bonnier Media

Basking in the “halo”

According to Michael A. Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director at Hearst Magazines, print enjoys a sense of credibility that other platforms lack, he told Folio, “We’re living in a very tipping-point moment, where consumers and advertisers have begun to step back and say, ‘What are the environments I can trust? What is the content that I can trust? How do I know real people are reading this content, that it has true authority?” This was substantiated by The 2018 Ofcom News Consumption Survey, which found that magazines are the UK’s most trusted source of news.

"The good news for printed magazines is that their credibility has a halo effect on the magazines’ websites, which gives them a competitive advantage over their digital-only competitors. People may be buying fewer magazines, but they still associate them with quality and reliability."
D. Eadward Tree

Something Facebook probably had in mind when it launched its print quarterly Grow which is available in select airports and railway station business lounges. The social media giant which has faced criticism and scrutiny for its mishandling of user data also extensively used the print medium to issue apologies to the public.

Terri White, Editor-in-Chief of the film magazine Empire from the Bauer Media Group says, “The digital space is a hectic, loud, cluttered landscape with bloggers, influencers, journalists, editors, writers, marketers all shouting into the void – their voices surfacing, or not, depending on SEO or algorithms.” In contrast, she adds, “The intimacy is unrivaled” when readers hold print in their hands, “a visceral, powerful connection” is created. “In this increasingly digitized world, you cannot underestimate how much people just want to feel something real.”

“See beyond the transaction”

According to MPA’s Magazine Media Factbook 2018-2019, in the United States, “the top 25 print magazines reach more adults and teens than the top 25 prime time shows. And, despite generational differences, magazine consumption is strong.”

"Marketers and consumers want and need print. We are living in a very crowded media ecosystem and magazine brands provide a shortcut to quality. Magazines – in all their forms – are alive and well." Linda Thomas Brooks, President, and CEO, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media

Whit suggests, “Brands should hire great storytellers, let them tell their fantastic stories. Invest in great photography. See beyond the transaction – strive to create a robust, emotional bond with the audience. Capture their heart (audience) and they’ll buy whatever you’re selling – whether that’s a subscription to a magazine or a top in the sale.”

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