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.

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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 credit: The Pitchfork Review

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