Print Magazines Dead? Bite Your Tongue (6 Reasons to Rethink Print)

By Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Expert, Keynote Speaker and former Consultant to TMSA, and Entrepreneur. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute and the Orange Effect Foundation.

Are you getting tired of the whole ‘Print Is Dead’ movement? I sure am…and have been for quite some time. Heck, Google alone will give you 484,000 results for the phrase.

No content distribution type ever really dies though. It only changes. Vinyl albums are seeing a resurgence. And almost 700 million printed books were sold last year. That’s 100 million more than in 2012 (according to Statista). Radio? Even with Sirius XM, Spotify and Apple, radio continues to survive.

But are print magazines dead? Not by a long shot. Different? Absolutely.

Computer hardware manufacturer Raspberry Pi recently purchased two computer magazines from Dennis Publishing. That makes five magazines and over 20 print books now published by Raspberry Pi’s Press division. And this is just the start.

Is Raspberry Pi generating more advertising revenues and subscriptions through the magazines? Not really. But are they selling more products and services? Absolutely. Are customers more loyal because of the magazines? No doubt.

That’s the change that no one seems to be noticing. Consumers are still engaging in print magazines, but the business model has completely changed, even though most people don't realize it. Vibrant print magazines are being created and distributed, but you just aren't seeing them on newsstands.

6 Reasons to Rethink Print
Here are a few reasons why there might be an amazing opportunity in the print channel:

1. It Grabs Attention
Have you noticed how many fewer magazines and print newsletters you are getting in the mail these days? I don’t know about you, but I definitely pay more attention to my print mail. There’s just less mail, so more attention is paid to each piece.

2. Shrinking Audience Development Costs
Traditional publishers expend huge amounts of time and money qualifying subscribers to send out their magazines. Many times, publishers need to invest multiple dollars per subscriber per year for auditing purposes (They send direct mail, they email, they call… they call again… so that the magazine can say that their subscribers have requested the magazine. This is true for controlled [free] trade magazines).

So, let’s say, a publisher’s cost-per-subscriber per year is $2 and their distribution is 100,000. That’s $200,000 per year for audience development.

That’s a cost that companies like Raspberry Pi don’t necessarily have to worry about. If non-traditional publishers want to distribute a magazine to their customers, they just use their customer mailing list. That’s a big advantage.

3. What’s Old Is New Again
Social media, online content and mobile applications are all part of the marketing mix today. Still, what excites marketers and media buyers is what IS NOT being done (can you say non-traditional?). They want to do something different… something new. It’s hard to believe, but the print channel is new again and is seeing a rebirth. Could we possibly be seeing a golden age in print, like we are seeing in television?

4. Customers Need to Know What Questions to Ask
We love the internet because buyers can find answers to almost anything. But where do we go to think about what questions we should be asking? I talked to a publisher recently who said this:

“The web is where we go to get answers but print is where we go to ask questions.”

The print vehicle is still the best medium on the planet for thinking outside the box and asking yourself tough questions based on what you read — it’s lean back versus lean forward.

5. Print Still Excites People
I talked to a journalist recently who said it’s harder and harder to get people to agree to an interview for an online story. But mention that it will be a printed feature and executives rearrange their schedule. The printed word is still perceived as more credible to many people than anything on the web. It goes to the old adage, “If someone invested enough to print and mail it, it must be important.”

The increased exposure to fake news is only increasing the importance of print.

6. Print Lets People Unplug
More and more, people are actively choosing to unplug, or disconnect themselves from digital media. I’m finding myself turning off my phone and email more to engage with printed material. A few years ago I didn’t see this coming. Today, I relish the opportunities when I can’t be reached for comment. Electronics Free Saturday is a big thing with our family.

All that, and print magazines can be good for business. CMI launched CCO magazine back in 2011. A few years later we discovered that those who read the magazine consistently became our best customers.

Online marketing and social media are definitely here to stay. So say “yes” to social media, apps, and the rest of it. But don’t forget that print can still play an important role in your overall marketing mix.

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