The “Print Proud, Digital Smart” Mantra

Print is a lot of things to a lot of different people:

For those of us who are true print geeks, the unabashed love of the medium comes from an emotional connection to ink on paper – the way it feels and the way it makes us feel.

For those of us in the printing industry, it’s a way of life, a career based on creating something tangible and lasting.

Supporting the medium of print, and in particular print magazines, makes sense for these kinds of people. But there’s another reason to support print magazines, and those reasons are being spoken loud and clear by the CEOs and industry execs at several major publishing firms.

Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni interviewed some of these folks recently, as he begins plans for his upcoming Print Proud, Digital Smart conference next spring. Husni recognizes that, for a lot of us, working in the print industry is a life-long dream.

However, as he so insightfully notes in a recent post, “CEOs and presidents of major publishing companies cannot afford to be entirely dreamers. I’m not implying that these men and women do not have visionary outlooks about their companies’ futures, but they also have a very shrewd and knowledgeable view of the business side of publishing. And when it comes to their bottom lines, they aren’t going to risk adding value to those simply to realize a childhood dream.”

In other words, we can’t make the mistake of thinking that these execs are such vocal supporters of print just for emotional reasons.

“I think that we continue to have a very strong point of view about our business,” Michael Clinton, Hearst’s president, marketing and publishing director told Husni. “Obviously, we believe in our core product—which is print. Why do we believe so strongly? It’s because the consumer believes so strongly in it.”

And those customers prove that time and again, most recently when the new Hearst title Pioneer Woman sold out in one week.

Trusted Media Brands’ Bonnie Kintzer has similar thoughts about print as a business, and questions the negativity.

“Why do people feel this need to beat up on print, in particular people in the industry? We closed our fiscal year June 30; we were up on advertising for both Reader’s Digest and Taste of Home year over year,” she tells Husni. “Print is strong for us. We have a great respect for print and we have a great respect for the print reader.”

That said, these execs are sharp; they realize their brands exist in a digital landscape too and are wisely incorporating digital into their business models. As Husni puts it, “print proud and digital smart.”

Kintzer, for one, sees revenue potential there. “Of course, we expect greater growth to come from digital advertising, but one does not preclude the other,” she notes.

For Active Interest Media president and CEO Andy Clurman, he sees a disconnect in the ways publishers have attempted to adapt to their digital reality.

“I think fundamentally digital businesses are not the same as the magazine media business,” he tells Husni. He believes that, while publishers can leverage social media, “Facebook’s business model and Google’s business model are pretty radically different than the traditional magazine business model. So, it wasn’t a natural progression that if you’re in the magazine media business, you should have, would have figured all of that out.”

“These men and women have a strong belief that print is their core product and THEY make no apologies for that, while acknowledging that digital is equally important in its own space,” Husni notes.

No one’s implying that magazine media doesn’t belong on digital platforms; in fact, many publishers are doing great things there. Still, it’s important to remember that, for the men and women who lead this industry, imagination will always trump technology. Meanwhile, remain proud of print and what it can do, while being savvy about digital as a way to help us all keep doing it.