Magazine publishers won’t survive as order takers anymore.

As a magazine publiMagazines won't survive as order takerssher, I’m constantly drawn to the conversation surrounding the health of print media, which today is rarely spoken without the words multi-platfrom somewhere in the analysis. Morphing our print publications into digital devices is all the rage as well as the fury. A whole industry is spinning on its tail wondering which direction to take, or more succinctly how to take it there. It’s expensive, time consuming to say the least and not a straight-line to profits.

What’s missed in this conversation is that we’re not special. Publishing a magazine is no different than any business. What’s different is that for years, the print industry in general, has been coasting along on a cushy, lucrative ride where sales really meant order-taking. [click to tweet] Not too many skills needed there. Show up, take the order, deliver. For the typical local/regional magazine, marketing the publication usually meant filling up empty spaces with house ads before running to press. The whole magazine was the marketing plan. What a clever business model!

In the real world, multi-platform has always been at the core of business success. Print, radio, tv, direct mail, events, networking, strategic sales, etc. Unless you were a publisher, you didn’t have the luxury of your product doubling as your sales piece. Joe Business has been navigating the jungles of promotion since he hung his first shingle back in the stone age. It seems to me that magazine publishers need to take a page from what he’s been doing for years; using marketing to its full and glorious extent. That’s not just advertising.

Instead of lamenting and waxing and waning on and on about whether print is dead or going to be dead, all we publishers really need is a refresher on the 4Ps of marketing. Constant consideration of product, price, placement and promotion is what drives every successful business model.

This is old school stuff. Classics never go out of style, regardless of trends.

Embracing the 4Ps means deploying it fearlessly and consciously.

Publishers in print need to create more value with their brands by adding to the mix with multi-media, reasonably priced packages (Product / Price), distribute to the right people, not just willy-nilly to create a big looking number (Place) and all the while telling everyone (Promotion) what they’re doing.

We need to realize the value of our printed magazines have changed; that doesn’t mean it’s less. It’s just different. Like a Value Meal at McDonalds. We need to add some fries to it. Think social media shout-outs, email marketing, digital ads, web ads, events, sponsorships, etc. All of these add-ons can be simply accessed and packaged with a sweet bow, providing incomparable value. But you don’t need to do them all. Just pick one or two so you can do them really well.

In order for our printed magazine to be relevant in the shadows of so many alternatives, we have to get off our duffs and Do Something. Anything. Really. Just go stir it up! We have to get out of our caves both physically and digitally. Meet the world where it’s at. Or is. Or where-ever.

Instead of feeling nauseated at the idea of launching straight into a full-blown interactive digital edition on the Apple Newstand (yes it is NOT for the faint of heart) how ’bout considering something simple like a replica edition on any number of free platforms? In about 5 minutes, BAM you’re digital.

Then move on and promote, promote, promote. It doesn’t really matter how pretty, or interactive, or amazing your product is if no one knows about it. [click to tweet] If you’re spending all your time and energy making it pretty, there’s no time in the day to promote. Remember the 80/20 rule. One day a week making the product. Four days a week promoting it.

Just like we tell our advertisers they should do with us. More is more. We’re all gerbils. Short attentions spans. Squirrel!

The reality is, there are just more things distracting our readers these days. With all the connectivity in the palm of our hands, it’s a wonder any of us get anything done.

The traditional practice of sitting back and taking orders just won’t cut it anymore for any business. Our advertisers are caught up in the same fury of what to do? what to do? as us. And short of any counter perspective, our advertisers, the life blood of our publications, will likely reach for the path of least resistance: stick-thy-head-in-sand and do nothing, or opt for a quick, cheap fix of a glamorously yet often ineffective static digital / web ad, or a bazillion other options.

So before you abandon your print edition for the next new thing, remember, there are gobs of studies out there proving print magazines indeed are alive and thriving  (“Mr. Magazine™” Samir Husni, PhD says, “Last month’s bevy of (new magazine) launches is unbelievable!”)

Add to that our long-held love of snuggling up with a printed something for a calming escape. The nostalgia, the smell, the sound, the feel, etc. Love it. Got it. So to proselytize that the printed magazine is at death’s door, unworthy of our efforts is a bit premature, methinks. I’m sure we can all eek out a good living for a long time with printed magazines in our mix if we’re smart about it.

We just need to be conscious about our marketing. It needs to be on our to-do list everyday.

If we as publishers don’t keep our eye on marketing, it doesn’t matter if our magazines are print or digital. Fancy or replica digital. Whatev I say. It doesn’t matter. [click to tweet]

Just package it smartly, price it reasonably, place it in the right hands and promote the snot out of it! Then, follow up with advertisers to see how they’re doing (yes ask them) and adjust. Adjust. Adjust. Always.

Or change careers.

Yes, that means taking a step back, looking at what it is you do as a magazine publisher, and ask yourself if you have the passion left in you to kill it with marketing. (You know, kill it a good way.)

Or, just kill it and move on to whatever you’re really passionate about and market the snot outta that too.

Either way, you’ll never escape marketing. And the beauty today is, with all this cool technology, we can market from our laptops, anywhere on earth, and in our jammies. What’s not to love about that?!

If you’re not passionate about your magazine, no one will be passionate about your magazine. [click to tweet]

Go make it happen!


Coming soon.

A Look Back. Scenes from my previous life and the parallels to the state of the magazine industry.


What do you do to market your magazine? I’d love to hear!