Why digital publishers are choosing to publish print magazines

Let’s say it together: print is not dead. It will never die. Never. It will carry on for the same reason we buy paperback books and go shopping at a store—we like the familiar, we like the tangible. The tangible is so important to us, in fact, that online retailers like Warby Parker and Amazon have opened brick-and-mortar locations. Now, publishers are doing the same.

For years, traditional publishers have fought a grim battle with consumers to pay for print content—especially as the internet became the place to consume content for free. Now, digital publishers are making the move back to (or for the first time) print, creating magazines aimed at untapped or niche markets.

Magazines that have mastered digital are moving to print to showcase their work to a broader audience. That, and to show they have the knowledge to stay on the top of more than one channel. CNET—one of the oldest and largest online publications covering consumer tech—has turned to print to reach untapped audiences. Their VP of content Vanessa Jo Roberts says that print helps answer branding questions. “How do you extend your brand in different ways? Who’s not receiving your message? Nowadays, people don’t expect print to be the answer. But if you’re [a brand that’s] completely digital, you may be excluding an audience that still really wants to have a connection with you, but they’re just [offline].”

For those that fail to be persuaded, the similarities across digital to print publications are striking. Favoring quarterly and biannual issues print circulation is kept low—often between 20,000 and 70,000 copies. But what they lack in frequency, they make up for in volume of content and quality.

These print magazines include upward of 100 pages of editorial content aimed at already-engaged consumers. Some choose to forgo advertisements; others choose select advertisers or one advertiser to power the content and add value to readers, much like how The Pitchfork Review was funded for the first year by Converse. Pricing for these magazines can vary, too. To make up for a magazine with limited space publishers opt to charge consumers between $10–20 for a single issue while others are choosing to distribute their print magazines for free.

7 Digital Publishers Who Have Recommitted to Print Publishing

By Emily E. Steck

In a marketplace where everyone is on every content channel, these digital-first publishers are committing themselves to print to stand out from the pack.

  • POLITICO Magazine

    By Emily E. Steck

    _POLITICO Magazine_ features original online reporting, weekly Friday covers and a bi-monthly print edition that is free to the public with a circulation of approximately 40,000. “If you define your publication by the platform on which you publish, you pretty quickly risk irrelevance,” said Susan Glasser, editor of _POLITICO Magazine_ to [Digiday in 2014.](http://digiday.com/publishers/digital-publishers-reviving-print-corpse/)

  • PORTER Magazine

    By Emily E. Steck

    _Net-A-Porter_'s—world's premier online luxury fashion retailer—print magazine _PORTER Magazine _is an extension of the brand's luxury fashion. Equipped with high fashion editorials, photography and shopping opportunities, the part-magazine, part-catalogue runs thick with an average of 300+ pages. With six annual issues for $25/$35 a year, it's one of the best "steals" for digital-to-print magazine prices.

  • GOOD Magazine

    By Emily E. Steck

    The journey to print is interesting for _GOOD Magazine_, the magazine for "people who give a damn." After abandoning most of its editorial roots in favor of becoming a platisher, the magazine pivoted back to editorial and then print in 2015. The quarterly magazine runs at approximately 132 pages, with a high editorial to advertisement ratio. Available by subscription for $40 per year, or $14 an issue at book retailers and online, is committed to print. "We’re structuring this incarnation of _GOOD_ to be more reliant on subscribers, first and foremost, and to a lesser extent, single copy sales. We’re upscaling the product to connect with readers in a different way where it almost fits into that bookazine category," [says Casey Caplowe, co-founder of _GOOD _to _Folio_.](http://www.foliomag.com/2015/good-goes-back-print/)

  • Pineapple

    By Emily E. Steck

    Airbnb may be the world's leading online hotel brand, but it was plagued by a branding issue for years. Mainly, that there was no connection to the physical world. Enter _Pineapple, _Airbnb's printed quarterly magazine_ _that aspires to start coffee table conversation for the curious-minded traveler. Each issue is advertisement-free, over 120 pages and costs $12. (We highlighted it [here](http://blog.quiet.ly/industry/airbnbs-pineapple-branded-publication-connects-the-online-startup-to-its-real-world-travelers/).)

  • The Pitchfork Review

    By Emily E. Steck

    Pitchfork—a music publication—launched _The Pitchfork Review _in 2014 as a 200-plus page quarterly magazine. Featuring longform journalism, photography, reviews, interviews, design and comics, the print magazine hopes to encourage readers to collect their magazine like they would a vinyl record. That explains why the price of the print magazine is on the expensive side, costing $20 an issue or $50 for a year. Consumers can also buy the magazine at select bookstores in the United States.

  • CNET Magazine

    By Emily E. Steck

    CNET—one of the oldest and largest online tech publications—launched a print quarterly magazine in late 2014 simpled entitled _CNET Magazine, _where it hopes to reach audiences offline with the latest tech journalism. "The idea from the outset was that _CNET_ did not want to be a tech insider publication. That's not what we do online. We're a consumer-focused tech site. Once you understand that's what we're trying to do in print, it becomes clear that there's not tech mainstream consumer magazine in the marketplace," said the site's co-editor in chief, Connie Guglielmo to [Mashable.](http://mashable.com/2014/11/03/cnet-quarterly-magazine/) Taking the subscription-based model—$10 for 4 issues a year via online or found in book retailers—the magazine is set to circulate 200,000 copies.

  • The Red Bulletin

    By Emily E. Steck

    _The Red Bulletin—_Red Bull's branded magazine—has carved itself a place in the men’s lifestyle market via compelling sports photography and editorials (more on that [here](http://blog.quiet.ly/industry/what-gives-red-bull-its-wings-its-branded-publication-the-red-bulletin/)). In addition to their online blogs, social channels and editorials, they publish their branded magazine for free.

What digital publishers need to consider before jumping into print

Print is not dead and is never going to be dead—so can we stop holding the funeral for it already? Print is in fact celebrating a renaissance. Does that mean it’s time for publishers to go old-school once again? Maybe. Here’s what publishers need to consider about print publications.

  • Print magazines are not for every brand. Publishers need to think about how it will elevate their brand. Anything that can help brands stands out in a landfill of a content, create a genuine connection, and provide a community where consumers feel a sense of belonging is a powerful content marketing strategy.
  • Print can be preferable to digital channels, sometimes. It’s important for brands to reach new audiences via digital channels, but print represents an untapped channel that can elevate a brand’s positioning. If the brand can use print to do more than just content (as in leveraging the brand, provide another product, etc.), print is a lucrative option. Just look what Pineapple has done for Airbnb.
  • With print comes sacrifice. Print publications from digital publishers tend to sacrifice something a traditional magazine publisher does not have to. For instance, some of these branded magazines don’t have any advertising within them, and they must absorb these costs by charging more for their subscription. Others choose to use advertisements but distribute it for free. Consider what your brand is willing to “sacrifice” for your print publication and consider how frequent you would like to publish.
  • Are you willing to create original or exclusive content? Digital-to-print magazines need to determine if they create content exclusively for the print publication or take from their digital archives.

Print will never die, and it in a beautiful twist of irony, digital to print is the new trend that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

Image: Charisse Kenion/Unsplash

Understand how Quietly can help play a role in your content marketing efforts.

Speak to a Strategist Today

Get a free consultation for your content marketing strategy.

Speak to a Strategist Today