I know I'm not the only one seeing these spreads in seemingly every magazine I pick up; the 'Magazines, the Power of Print'? campaign is aimed to reach over 110M readers a month. Leaders of five major publishing companies (CondÃ© Nast, Hearst, Meredith Corp., Time, Inc., and Wenner Media) have united to 'promote the vitality of magazines as a medium'?.
And I can't help but question them. The print industry has chosen to approach this predicament with a very defensive message. Copy from one of the pieces, in particular, has rubbed me the wrong way: ''?¦a new medium doesn't necessarily displace an existing one. Just as movies didn't kill radio. Just as TV didn't kill movies'?.
I understand what they're getting at (digital is just the next phase in the evolution of media), but is this comparison even relevant? Television, film and radio didn't 'kill'? each other because each innovation broadcasted a new type of media. Alternatively, digital seeks to enhance and enliven existing, static print content. The two mediums can and should coexist'since users choose to consume digital and print in different contexts'but this aggressive approach to convince users to consume print is futile.
I'm frustrated by the many un-truths rampant throughout this project. Cathie Black, president of Heart Magazines, states that 'this campaign supports the fact that there really is no better medium to advertise in than magazines. Magazines are the most cost effective and consistent medium at both ends of the purchase funnel'?. The adverts also claim that print media consumption has increased over the last five years and that the appeal of magazines is growing. I'm not going to try and argue these points since many already have. My main contention is that this is not the best way to encourage readership. Instead, offline publishers need to prove the value in print.
For me, compared to digital, print is focused. It allows for a more relaxed, immersive experience; I'm able to soak in specific content and really let it saturate. Magazine editors are presenting detailed stories to the reader. We all know that an online experience is much different'the simultaneous skimming of copy, seeking of information, and searching for dynamic content.
Both ironically and appropriately, these publishers do have a supporting digital component to the campaign in the works. Instead of speaking to the people who already have a magazine in their hands, they should be conversing with those who don't. Isn't the point to remind their ex-readers what they're missing?
Beyond this campaign, the industry needs to research and recognize what mediums their audience is using'and start considering how they can truly transform and flex with them. Experimentation with new digital technologies, most notably the iPad, has the potential to reinvigorate failing publications. There's an apparent need to reinvent print content for new channels like these.
From a brand's perspective, this should not be a print versus interactive decision. How can you cater to your consumers' desire for both specialized, developed print material and engaging, reciprocative digital content?