The Decade that Print Forgot to Die

It’s not unusual to read a slew of year-in-review posts each December, but Business of Home is going one better with their article “8 Media Moments that Defined the Decade.”

The article approaches these moments from a home design perspective, naturally, but media brands can take away lessons here no matter the niche.

HGTV and Bravo both made massive inroads on the small screen, with HGTV replacing CNN as the third most-watched cable channel in the U.S. At the same time, we’ve seen the rise and then fall of design blogs, while also witnessing the meteoric rise of the social media influencer. We’ve watched as big media brands like Hearst shook things up, and the old guard at Architectural Digest was replaced.

Through it all, we’ve seen print publishers face existential challenges about what and who they should be going forward. And the results have been unexpected and in many ways exciting to see.

“It’s easy to write doom-and-gloom articles about the looming death of print,” notes the BOH article. “But when we sat down to make this list, we realized that, actually, not that many big design magazines have folded in the past 10 years.

“Shelter, as a whole, is a fairly resilient category—especially compared with the broader landscape,” the article continues. “What has happened is a good deal of reorganization and experimentation. Traditional Home became a special interest publication. Coastal Living went through a similar change—but is now bouncing back to subscription. House Beautiful has a showhouse. Architectural Digest is launching digital-only spinoffs. Everyone wants a podcast. The only constant, it seems, is change.”

True enough. Change has been the prevailing word for this past decade, with many publishers leaning back toward paid content models, expanding into new revenue channels, and positioning themselves to move beyond the digital ad duopoly. The one change that means the most to me? I no longer hear the incessant mantra that print is obsolete.

Instead, I see digital-first brands launching print publications as brands seek to connect on a more human level. I see print taking its rightful place as the long pants of brand fashion, signaling a more mature approach to marketing strategy. And I see print … in magazines, catalogs, direct mail, books, and all the rest… offering a digital weary audience the respite they seek from their online experience.

Print continues to evolve as it has for more than 2,000 years. It’s going to take more than one decade of tech advances to change our basic relationship with this most tangible form of communication.