The New Relevance of Printed Words on a Page

Audience first.

It’s been a mantra around here for years now, since Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni did such a great job of explaining the importance of putting your audience’s needs first, rather than rushing to embrace what’s new.

In the five years since he wrote that piece, we’ve seen it play out in real-time, as publishers find new success in a disruptive age by listening to their audience… and publishing accordingly.

Even digital-first companies now understand the timeless appeal of print magazines. Today we can add another big name in digital marketing to the magazine publishing universe.

“In March, the executives at the email marketing company Mailchimp made a surprising purchase: They bought a magazine,” writes Adam Wren, executive editor of Imagination. “Not an issue from the airport newsstand, but an actual, living and breathing magazine title. The Atlanta-based company acquired the seven-year-old London media company Courier, which tells the stories of modern small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

This is news … not just because it’s a digital-first company buying a print publication, but it’s news because of the editorial mission … stories around small businesses and entrepreneurs. It is a precise match to the stories Mailchimp’s own customers are creating every day as they use the email marketing program.

“We share so much in common with [Courier] — their values, their deep empathy for their audience, and their desire to enable their audience’s success,” says Mark DiCristina, vice president of brand and Mailchimp Studios. “We’re excited to help fuel their growth and make Courier more widely available to creators and entrepreneurs around the world.”

As Content Marketing Studio founder Joe Pulizzi said of the deal, Mailchimp has purchased VIP access to a large audience that they know how to engage.

“You put out a beautifully produced magazine that’s targeted to your audience’s needs, they are going to engage with that and pass it on to their friends and colleagues. It’s become awfully crowded online. It’s hard to break through the clutter.” Joe Pulizzi, CMI

This idea of acquiring or creating a magazine to touch your current core audience is gaining traction – Staples, Airbnb, REI are just a few examples of brands publishing magazines keyed to their specific target audience.

Husni, for one, thinks now may be a perfect time to launch a title … even given the obvious challenges of a sputtering economy.

“We are more connected than ever before,” he says. “Yet at the same time we are more isolated than ever before. And then comes social distancing, and we’re really, really isolated: Yet I can connect with anybody. So, the question becomes: How can I do something that shows that my brand is not just a virtual brand? That’s where print plays a big role.

“That’s why companies are deciding that, maybe with a magazine or a newsletter that I can mail, that people can get their hands on, then maybe they’ll feel that we are a real brand—not just something virtual, not just something in the air,” Husni continues. “The magazine becomes something like a membership card.”

This idea of membership has merit beyond an emotional level; many publishers are finding success in membership business models, as a way to lessen their reliance on unsteady ad rates. Still other publishers are leveraging their magazines as pure marketing collateral, a planned expense that will more than pay for itself in brand lift.

“In other words, brands are using print — the most primal media — to add a new, emotionally charged dimension to their audience relationships,” Wren concludes.

And that, my friends, it a perfect use of a magazine.