Magazines and the “Keep It Forever” Factor

The Mr. Magazine interview with W’s editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi.

“What is a print product? What should it look like? And how do we deliver it to people?”

Those are the kind of questions that W’s editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi has been asking of late, as the magazine undergoes a makeover and rethinks what it means to exist in print today.

As he explains in a recent interview with Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, Tonchi’s goal is to make print printier, part of that luxurious future we’ve been talking about the past few years.

“For print, we said let’s slow down and really go deeply into the idea of collectible,” he explains. “Making print collectible. So, we got a better paper stock, we went to 150 grams, which is quite an investment. And we changed the cover stock, I added this glossy finishing for the logo and part of the covers.”

As part of the strategy to “bring the magic back” to print and encourage collecting, they also created a limited edition collector’s box for 2018.

“We only created so many in quantity and they went very fast,” Tonchi notes. “You know, I think print has not changed in so long that we really need to rethink print. What is a print product? What should it look like? And how do we deliver it to people? If we declare that we’re a premium, luxury product; it has to look like a luxury product. It has to be on nice paper, wrapped and presented in a certain way.”

Beyond the physical aspect of the print production, there’s an editorial strategy at work here that certainly adds to the allure. W’s “three D” philosophy – discovery, diversity and disruption – are “part of the DNA of the brand,” Tonchi continues.

Their commitment to these three Ds adds value to the entire experience, keeping the magazine fresh and relevant while staying true to its mission.

“You buy something because it means something, it’s not just an object,” Tonchi tells Husni. “You’re buying also what that company stands for. And because your customers are educated, they do understand that. They like, say buying from a company that is behind a museum or a political statement or will spend that kind of money in promoting causes. It becomes part of really the idea of luxury, that sense of responsibility.”

There’s no question in his mind that print continues to be a viable medium. As he notes, “Digital is not everything. Digital is not going to kill or be a substitute for magazines. But magazines have to find a different way to be perceived and distributed.”

He recognizes that the publishing industry has gone through intense change, and this has indeed caused some angst.

“But I think everybody is going through what people used to call ‘growing pains,’ but are now ‘changing pains,’ because we know we need to change, but nobody knows exactly how,” he notes.

For W magazine, the way forward was to keep the essential brand elements – their 3 Ds, told in a luxurious format – and rethink the rest. Too often, we’ve seen publishers change the wrong things, forsaking the things that made them unique to squeeze themselves into a new platform or business model.

While he does believe the industry needs to find new ways to distribute magazines – the newsstand model is decidedly bust as a primary source – he’s more concerned with telling the new story of what makes a magazine today.

“How to find this new way to present the idea of magazines? I think it’s more of what is a magazine today; that’s the question we have to answer.”

For brands like W, focusing on that magical “keep it forever” factor seems to be working, as people look to engage with something lasting as we scroll through our ephemeral days on digital.