Print Tops Digital in Influence

Niche Magazine Trend

So it seems the glamour of the new girlfriend is mostly sizzle after all. But we still need her.

For the past half dozen years or so, everything has been digital this, digital that, get the app, sync this, download that, etc. This relatively new girl on the block, masquerading around as a phone, has become so embroiled in our lives that she’s become a permanent appendage to us that we guard with our life. We check on her easily dozens of times a day since she’s morphed into an all-in-one mini computer in our back pocket.

Using her to actually talk to someone has become almost secondary. There’s very little she can’t do; she takes pictures and videos, she’s reminds us to do stuff, she’s our banker, our messenger and more. She reads to us, sings to us, play games with us. She connects us to everything.

So when it comes down to marketing, it seems the obvious guy answer is we need to be on her playground. That’s where all the cool kids are, right?

Yes and no. The answer may surprise you. I’ve been studying this for years, and it still surprises me.

A little backstory.

In 2008, I started a little online magazine called, The Bunk Room, a magazine written entirely by kids. For several years it was primarily a labor of love. Code for no money. I really didn’t have any desire to enter the tangled web of monetization in the beginning. The magazine began as a vehicle to teach my kids to write, inspired by their creation of this little hand-scrolled newsletter they named, The Bunk Room.

As time marched on and circumstances and family life evolved, I gave into the temptation to monetize. What better way to make a living than doing what I love and following through on a lifelong dream of publishing a magazine?

The year was 2011 when we dove in head first. We created a business model to bring the magazine to print in communities throughout the US, all sharing the same content, but customized with their local ads. Quite simply, we decided to license our content so local publishers could create an amazing printed piece without being encumbered by the need to develop content.

This all sounds so simple. And it is.

Even though we started our printed magazine in the thick of a what on the surface seemed to be a declining industry, we have prevailed. Every time we go to print we get more writers. And every time we go to print we get more advertisers.

I always say our goal is the same as our advertisers: We need to connect with our readers. The more readers we have, the more writers we get. The more readers we have, the more traffic our advertisers get.

So this is the part where the “simple” in our business model starts to get not-so-easy.

In the last three years we have seen local publishers come and go. Some more successful than others as they made a go of it in their respective markets. I found that selling the idea of the local publishing model was easy. Almost too easy as I think I my enthusiasm made the concept of publishing the magazine seem effortless.

Long story short: Success of any business has to do largely with intense focus and a nice helping of financial fitness. Not everyone has both of these.

Fast forward a few years and lots of retooling, and I’m pleased to say we now have two solid publishers on board paving the way for more, but I’m always walking with my eye peeled toward the bigger picture of where this primarily print business model stands both today and where we should direct it in the future.

And from my back porch today, I’m thrilled to say, this new digital girlfriend isn’t a threat after all! We can all play together, and doing so makes us stronger.

Big Picture Magazine Stuff.

We have all seen the mass exodus of major print brands in the last half dozen years. Seems everyday a giant print magazine is closing up shop.

What isn’t really noticed by the passerby is the opportunity for both publishers and advertisers that has evolved.

Printed niche and hyper-local magazines have become the bomb; the unglamorous, analog piece that politely sits and waits for you to join him.  He doesn’t jump out and grab you, objectify and implore you to download, sync or buy with flashing lights and whistles. Nope. A printed magazine waits for you and delivers a sense of relaxation and inspiration foreign to this new glamorous digital girlfriend.

According to the Rise of the Artisanal Magazine, we’re glomming onto these new and innovative printed tomes for a variety of reasons. “While the mass-market magazine, the $5.99 glossy we pick up at the airport or the local Walgreens, might indeed be a thing of the past, we might be witnessing the rise of the artisanal magazine,” siting numerous new quirky print magazines founded from a labor of love, by publishers not to be discounted as un-brilliant entrepreneurs.

I’m not saying we don’t love our new digital girlfriend either. She’s hot. She’s exciting. She’s all sorts of everything. But interestingly enough, she’s not as influential as we think.

So back to marketing.

What we have learned from not only the mass exodus of print publications to this steady growth of  niche publications is that print really isn’t dead and will likely be around for a very long time.

After all, we still use cash and debit cards have been around for decades.

According to Mary Berner, CEO and president of MPA — The Association of Magazine Media, as seen in Why Magazines Aren’t Screwed, “. . . to get the attention of a consumer, you need an experience that’s more immersive. Print magazines are the anchor of any brand. You can tell a story in a different way. It’s got the longevity; its sits around your house. This is also why all the retailers have publications. They want to immerse customers in that experience.”

But there’s still that glamorous digital girlfriend hanging around, that everyone on the street thinks is the hottest thing since ever, infecting not only big business but Mom & Pop Shops across the land that are beguiled by her sizzle and thrift. Web ads can be purchased for just pennies on the dollar compared to print ads.

No worries, Digi Girl can stay; she also serves in this greater purpose of brand building, and happily, magazine publishers can deliver it all.

What’s unique about magazine brands, is in influence. A healthy magazine brand holds the key to both the print and digital environments. According to Berner, that influence puts the magazine industry in an amazing place.

“The magazine industry is uniquely positioned to do well. There’s been a convergence of all media: (Magazine publishers are now seen) in the entire ecosystem and on every platform. And what is becoming truer and truer is that strong brands prevail across every platform. Magazines tend to be the first place that consumers go when they look for content online. The hardest thing to do is build brands across platforms — and magazines have that down cold. That’s our advantage. If you don’t screw it up, there’s lot of possibility. . . .We’re in the business of disseminating content through our brands. That can be anything from a print magazine to a video, to a digital experience,” Berner continued.

Bottomline: Leverage your brand across all platforms. And according to IPC Media print beats digital in influence, so you may want to start there when developing your marketing plan.

Check out these visuals on how print stands up to Digi Girl . . . .  Tell me if this jibes with your marketing experience.

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