How to Avoid Lazy Thinking When Talking about Print

Source: MPA – The Association of Magazine Media

It’s easy to talk about print as a tactile experience, a powerful brand booster, a longstanding legacy media that people love to love. It’s harder to talk about print in a business context, with real numbers and data that supports the thesis that print is a vital and growing part of the publishing business.

“The old trope that print is dead is just lazy thinking,” says Linda Thomas Brooks, President and CEO of the MPA—the Association of Magazine Media, in an article by Beth Braverman in Folio.

Indeed, this kind of lazy thinking is giving way to a data-rich and results-oriented way of speaking about the industry. Publishers are becoming increasingly cognizant of the need to prove ROI – and the industry is providing the proof.

“The ability to use big data to prove the value of print advertising has become even more important as publishers find themselves competing with data-rich digital rivals. Print publishers have responded with hard numbers of their own,” Braverman writes.

She cites several examples of industry names who are speaking more clearly about how print fuels the revenue stream when innovation comes into play:

  • “There is so much innovation that you can still bring to the magazine part of the business,” said Chris Mitchell, chief business officer for the Condé Nast Culture Collection. “For a while we were so focused on innovation equaling digital that we as an industry didn’t put quite enough of our brain power into how we could integrate the businesses and the delivery of magazines.”
  • “Because readers are making an active purchase decision the day they read the magazine, we provide outsize reader engagement that we can very convincingly demonstrate with third-party data,” said Steven Kotok CEO of Bauer Media Group USA. “And because our readers are retail shoppers who encounter and purchase our products in a retail environment, we are uniquely able to activate retail consumer purchases.”
  • “People really like the single topic thing,” said Alec Casey, chief marketing officer for Trusted Media Brands, which sees about 70 percent of its revenue come from consumers. “It’s a smaller investment than what you’d pay for a book, but bigger than a magazine. If you know you’re going to like the topic, you’re willing to spend a little more.”

It’s refreshing to hear publishers speaking about growth expectations for print, rather than bemoaning the challenges that digital has brought. Indeed, many are talking about using digital to sell print subscriptions and make their titles more attractive to advertisers.

What we aren’t hearing from publishers lately is strong support for relying on social media to build an ad revenue stream. As we’ve noted before, there’s not a lot of whitewashing or denying the hard truths about publishing in 2018. Publishers are increasingly aware that Facebook is not their friend; that ad revenue alone won’t foot the bill; and that you can go for quality – really the only viable paid content  – or chase scale by lowering standards.

Lazy thinking won’t get us anywhere as an industry, and it’s absolutely great to see so many big name publishers speaking in these positive and forward-thinking ways.