Less is More and More is Better

alive-magWant your publication to thrive in print? Raise the bar regarding reader experience.

Bookazines have done a remarkable thing for the magazine industry, forcing brands to raise the bar for their readers, according to one regional magazine publisher.

“If [readers] were going to invest their time in picking up a print publication, they really wanted that to be a special experience,” said Alive Media Group’s Elizabeth Tucker. “That’s where we felt that bookazines had really stepped into that space, creating an enhanced and elevated experience for readers.”

The comment was part of an interview with Greg Dool from Folio: on the recent changes to Tucker’s St. Louis- based publication Alive.

According to Dool, the magazine found itself at a crossroads recently.

“After 13 years spent building a reputation as an integral voice in the St. Louis area, Alive… recognized that the brand’s print magazine needed to change in order to better serve its audience, but walking away from the very cornerstone of the business was not an option,” Dool writes.

The solution for Tucker et. al. was to conduct focus groups and advisory boards to understand what readers were indeed looking for. And the answer was most decidedly not publishing content digitally to cut the cost of production.

“The feedback suggested survival in print meant raising the bar in terms of the reader experience. Alive responded swiftly, announcing, in December, plans to reduce print frequency from monthly to bimonthly, transition from glossy to high-quality, matte paper, and institute a paid subscription model—a first in the history of the formerly free, ad-supported magazine,” Dool notes.

An important part of the changeover from a free to paid model revolves around values – both the publishers and the readers. Tucker explained to Dool that “consumers, more than ever, are making business and purchasing decisions based on their values.

“That’s a shift happening in business across the board, not just in media,” she continued.

To that end, the company brought in a consultant to help them more firmly articulate those values. One result? The company doesn’t take advertising from just anyone, instead choosing to foster relationships with companies that align with their mission. And they are using augmented reality for select pieces to further enhance the experience.

As Dool notes, it’s too soon in the cycle to tell how well the readership will embrace the changes, but early results have been “positive,” Tucker said. To me, it seems like any brand willing to go to these lengths to not only understand its audience but throw out its rule book to deliver what they want is on a good path.