Hot Off the Press – the 2018/19 Innovation Report

Wondering what the rest of the publishing world is up to? Then lay your hands on a copy of the 2018/19 edition of Innovation in Magazine Media World Report, just launched this week at the Digital Innovators’ Summit (DIS) in Berlin.

According to John Wilpers, author of the report, there are plenty of reasons to feel positive about the state of the magazine industry.

“I would characterize the magazine industry today as refreshingly positive,” Wilpers told FIPP’s Jessica Patterson. “After a decade of uncertainty and despair, we not only see the light at the end of the tunnel, but some media companies are already through it. A good number of companies have actually replaced print revenue with reader revenue and other income sources.”

The prevailing theme of the report is innovation surrounding reader revenue, “as digital advertising alone can’t carry a substantial editorial business,” Patterson explains. Reader monetization strategies run the gamut from subscriptions and memberships to e-commerce and events.

Publishers clearly have realized that only journalism worth paying for will save journalism as an industry … and that there is an audience out there willing to pay.

“It’s really time for the people for whom we create this great but expensive content to pay for it,” Wilpers said. “If it is valued, if it is unique, if it is something you can’t get anywhere else, and if it speaks to their passions, makes them smarter, gives them advantages, and entertains them, then much like everything else that does that, readers should pay for it.”

Of course, reader revenue shouldn’t be expected to carry the full load; diversity is critically important in a quickly changing landscape. But audiences are clamoring for good content they can trust, and that puts magazine content in a good spot.

To leverage that prime position, reader behavior data is the “must-have” tech now, Wilpers notes. And he also covers many of the new ways of telling stories that are available to today’s publishers, like brands that are experimenting in audio reporting, automated journalism, interactive and horizontal stories, and other ways to present good journalism.

Of course, none of these tech innovations are worth a nickel if the reader doesn’t buy into it (remember tablet magazines?), so it’s inherent on publishers to understand what approaches their audiences love, and deliver it.

According to Wilpers, one of those approaches is undeniably in print. While media tech is expanding, there’s an abiding affinity for the print magazine experience.

“What we’re finding, what millennials are telling us, is that they look to print as an escape from their daily life on screen,” Wilpers said. “Print is a lean-back, off-screen, relaxing activity.”

As Patterson notes, millennials are big into print, often reading more than their Baby Boomer parents.

“For example, millennials are subscribing to The New Yorker at a rate 10 percent higher than older demographics, and millennial subscribers at The Atlantic jumped 130 percent since November 2016, according to Wilpers’ report.”

Of course, tucked into the mainstream are some truly offbeat ideas, many of them centered around tactile experiences.  One chapter of the report covered the truly odd and far-outside the box innovations, “including a Brazilian magazine ad in the April 2017 edition of Runners that used thermochromic ink that reacted to body heat, creating an image of a runner’s feet to indicate the type of shoe that runners required, an ad promoting a movie series using ink with a popcorn aroma, another that asked pregnant women to pee on it to reveal a savings on a baby crib, and an ad that, when wet and wrapped around a beer bottle in a freezer, cuts beer cooling time in half.”

“It’s a testament to the ingenuity of the human spirit,” Wilpers said. “Just when you think they can’t possibly do something new, they do!”

Grab a copy of the report and take a closer look at how publishers are rewriting their own destinies. You’re sure to be inspired.