Last week Media Week closed its print incarnation, although it lives on as part of brandrepublic. A few months ago Maxim suspended its print edition but continued online. Are we seeing the start of a massive rout of print media, as the inexorable screens march into our work and home lives? Maybe not yet. Although the digital/ screen-based tide is rising – and I am as much a perpetrator of this as anyone – there do remain a few patches of high ground where print still has a unique advantage. Publishers and media owners will have to make some tough choices and cut out the print-based content that adds little value and sits best online: news, listings, jobs, gossip. This may mean reduced frequency, issue sizes and print-runs, but also higher prices and a more targeted ad proposition. Here are my thoughts on the likely remaining islands where print could add value to media brands which may provide some inspiration for media owners:
1. Reflective & personal
Some content is still best consumed at leisure, away from work or home screens. Thoughtful analysis, indepth profiles or interviews, escapist writing, or even thorough product reviews, all still seem to work best in a physical form, allowing contemplation. People prefer a printed brochure when considering big purchases or decisions, such as cars or finance. It may be some time before novels read on beaches, on dusty trains, or in humid climates are universally replaced by e-readers.
2. Physical, portable and disposable
Paper’s versatility, lightness, variety and even disposable nature works well for content that needs to be taken to places either beyond the reach of 3G, or into inhospitable environments. Lonely Planet magazine offers printed fold-your-own mini guides; laminated recipe cards or walking routes are popular; and craft and homes magazines contain stencils and cut-outs.
3. Luxurious, inspirational and keepable
Beautiful photography, amazing illustration, luxurious paper stock, provide longevity to premium publications. Eye magazine, the quarterly journal of graphic design, is kept by students and design houses as a source of inspiration and there is a thriving market in back issues. Car magazine is luxuriated over by motoring enthusiasts.
4. Physical sampling
Print is still a way to literally get a product into the hands of the customer, whether samples of cosmetics and toiletries products in women’s magazines, or pens, stationery, vouchers or memory sticks in conference delegate packs.
5. Big picture
As devices become portable and screens get smaller, they become less good at displaying large-scale graphics. Few people possess printers bigger than A4. Maps, posters and wallcharts are fabulous learning, communication and planning tools. While GPS can pinpoint your current position, it can’t show the big picture as well as a paper map. Homebuilding magazine sold a large laminated project planning chart at their show. The Guardian’s educational posters adorn many classrooms and children’s bedroom walls.
If you have any other examples of innovative use of the print medium by publishers, please let me know, or join in the discussion on the Specialist Media Network on linked-in.
Carolyn Morgan’ s consultancy business, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategy, and has particular expertise in publishing. If you’d like to discuss how you could reinvent the print element of your media brand, please contact us for an initial discussion.