It’s Time for Print Publishers to Give Digital the Gratitude it Deserves

The print industry should be incredibly grateful to digital for one very important thing – the emphasis on content marketing has created a ready and willing market for brands. Consumers have embraced brand storytelling, and that love is flowing out of the digital silo and into the print sphere.

Thanks to this, print media in enjoying stability and growth that many predicted could never happen just 10 years ago.

“Consumers are connected to magazine brands because of their connection to the content, not the platform on which it’s delivered,” explains Hearst’s Michael Clinton, president of marketing and publishing director.

“In a world as fast-paced and news-heavy as ours, readers crave immediacy from our digital efforts, but also the ability to slow down and have a non-digital experience with self-selected content that they love in our print products,” Clinton continues. “It’s our job to continue reinventing what’s on the page to keep the reader excited and engaged.”

In order to keep that excitement, though, print must evolve and stay fresh. And fortunately, it is the perfect medium in which to do just that, writes Mario R. García in Garcia Media.

“While the layout constant elements for digital need to be familiar and steady, it is in print design that readers expect those visual surprises that only a giant double page can deliver, or, as we have seen in The New York Times recently, the four page fold out,” García explains.

The role of print, García explains, is no longer to break news. The loss of that immediacy was a massive disruption in the publishing industry, but not the end of the line for news publishers who clearly envisioned their new role.

As he explains, publishers must “admit that you don’t break news in print, but you can expand on stories, tell the reader more, go indepth and exploit the lean back mode.”

“Lead each day with a story that is NOT necessarily a news story or one that readers may have been exhausted of hearing about for the past 12 hours,” he continues.

For magazines, publishers face a similar strategic mission, to expand on the content and create the long-form experience that readers continue to crave.

“We also know that great content drives demand, and we’re committed to launching new products in print,” Hearst’s Clinton continues, mentioning the incredibly successful launch of The Pioneer Woman, and their exciting partnership with Airbnb.

Print’s advantage, he believes, is grounded in its legacy of trust.

“When fraud and unsafe environments are top of mind, readers know that the information and ideas they get from brands like ours is authoritative and edited,” Clinton notes. “And our readers are influencers too: An MPA survey showed that magazine readers are among the most highly influential consumers—they spark conversations based on the content they read, and trust, from our brands.”

So what’s the takeaway for print? At the end of the day, consumers still reach for print as a companion to their digital consumption, finding in-depth reporting and long-form storytelling they aren’t interested in consuming online.

Digital is not the enemy here. As Clinton notes, “Hearst drives print circulation with digital and mobile experiences.” It’s not an either/or. As publishers, designers and editors, we need to understand this new juxtaposition of print and use the printed page to its best advantage – with creative design, insightful content and an imaginative approach to each issue.