For Magazines, the Pendulum Swings Back to a More Thoughtful Mix of Channels

There’s no question that printing a magazine has its challenges, with the fixed costs of paper, printing and distribution and the decline in print advertising. So yes, from a bottom-line point of view it might seem like a smart move to switch to a digital-only format.

But it is? That’s what this article in Magazine Media (Netherlands) attempts to flesh out. As it notes, many brands that went digital-only have realized it was a mistake and are now returning to print.

“One of the reasons for this homecoming is detailed in a new case study of the cult British music magazine NME. After having stopped the print in March 2018 (after 66 years and a record circulation of 300,000 copies), the engagement of readers has collapsed. Faced with an equal offer, people spent much less time on the digital title; in this case up to 72% less,” it explains.

Publisher data shows NME’s weekly and monthly online readership grew… but those online readers spend only three minutes on average with the publication online, compared to the 30 minutes or more readers used to spend with the print version.

Image Source: Magazine

There’s no easy answer to the question “how does my audience want to engage?” The plethora of channels makes the options nearly limitless. While going digital-only alleviated the financial pressures the brand was facing and allowed them to build up a large new readership, it wasn’t the long-term final solution. That, as the article notes, is more of a strategic mix.

“The key to success therefore seems to lie in the right mix. What is the combination that will produce the optimal reading experience and the highest engagement? For most publishers and media brands, this is not an exclusive issue, but an inclusive one. The role of print is changing in the eyes of readers, and therefore also within the mix of brands,” the article notes. And while the number of digital-only publications continues to grow, there are also brands that are returning to print to capture what digital can’t offer – quality, sustained attention.

This kind of attention, the data shows, is the one thing social metrics can’t get you.  Creating content for the “like” or the “share” could be backfiring. Consumers are getting really good at ignoringblocking, even reporting digital content. And even when they are engaged, it’s not the kind of deep, focused attention that brands need to grow. 

I believe, like many others do, that the future is a mixed bag, a strategic reach of both online and traditional media.

As DataArt’s Sergey Bludov notes, “… always remember: technology isn’t going to kill print media. When used effectively, technology can help digital and print in different ways, allowing both to thrive as we move forward in the ever-changing landscape of the media world.”