It’s like the world’s turned upside down for Nicole Lee writing in Engadget.
“A month ago, I received a big, hefty magazine in the mail,” Lee writes. “It included stories such as a guide on where to go in Buenos Aires, a feature on tiny houses, and a deep dive into the history of African-American jockeys. The magazine was part travel, part lifestyle and part interior design; which are all topics I gravitate toward. What’s more, the stories were well-written, the photographs were beautiful and the graphic design was on point. There was just one weird thing about it: It was published by Airbnb.”
Weird. But, not really. After all, print is the new darling of digital brands. Earlier this month we shared the news about digital-first dating app Bumble joining the print revolution. That was quickly followed by news that Netflix launched their own print magazine to go after their share of Hollywood awards.
These are just the latest in a long string of high-profile companies leveraging print in the digital age to connect with their key audience. In fact, the Airbnb magazine, launched as a data-driven partnership with Hearst two years ago, is kind of old news by now if you’ve been following along.
“It’s worth noting here that branded publications aren’t a new phenomenon. Airplanes have had their own magazines in seat pockets for years, for example,” Lee writes. “What’s notable are the newer, younger companies embracing the format. Though not pure internet startups, luggage company Away has its own Here magazine, Dollar Shave Club publishes Mel, and Casper (the mattress company) launched Woolly in partnership with McSweeney’s. These aren’t just marketing catalogs either; the magazines are staffed with bonafide editorial teams, with real journalists behind the stories.”
At the end of the day, even digital brands realize the cachet of print.
“Adam Alter, an associate professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, told Adweek that these publications serve as a way to solidify brand identity, while also bringing in ad dollars and attracting new subscribers,” Lee writes.
Call them “glorified marketing vehicles” as Lee describes them, or glorious brand storytelling, the fact remains that digital brands are launching out in print for the same reasons traditional brands have. People love to read print magazines, and it’s a solid medium on which to engage and connect. That’s reason enough to understand what’s happening here.