Innovation in print: Step one: FOCUS

June 5, 2009

When you aim to go everywhere you are set to reach nowhere. That sums up the status of print and print driven companies these days. The rush to be everywhere, to compete and compliment the new technologies and to blame the current slum in the business model on any and everything but the business model itself, will, in short, lead us to nowhere.

You can call it self-destruction, or you can call it misguided information. In both of the aforementioned scenarios, the end result is the same: another death of a printed product and another praise for the power of digital in attracting everything print including, but not limited to, the print readers. Case in point the recent announcement of Viacom in shutting down Nickelodeon magazine. Joe Flint, writing in the LA Times said, “But like other magazines, Nickelodeon has suffered from the double whammy of more of its audience going to the Internet (darn those early adapters) and a prolonged advertising slump. Although the cable network remains dominant, the value the magazine provided as a marketing tool for it had faded over the last few years.”

Did you see the real problem why the magazine is dead? It lost its “value as a marketing tool,” on one hand and on the other hand those “early adapters” are going to the internet. Try telling that to the folks at Highlights and Highlights High Five, Ranger Rick, Lady Bug, Ask and the tens of kids’ magazines that carry no advertising and their only marketing value is to deliver good educational and entertaining content to their readers. When your readers are your customers, you do not need your magazine to be a marketing tool, especially in the kids’ magazine market.

The first step toward innovation should be Focus. We should stop and focus our efforts on the content of our publications and whether our products are serving the needs, wants and desires of their intended audience. Focusing on the relevant content in our relevant ink on paper product should be our first and most important step. Using print as a mere tool to direct traffic to the web or to be a marketing tool will not help our case of survival. Admit it to yourself that we are not the web, we are not television, we are not radio. We are a 400 years plus technology and unless we use it for what it was invented to produce we are going to miss the point, struggle and die.
Innovation in print must start first within the premise of print. Everything else will be the icing on the cake. Keep in mind if the cake is rotten, no matter how good the icing, no body will take another bite.
So, my friends, examine your recipe for the cake, check it once, and check twice. Mix the ingredients and bake on low heat in those high pressure times. The end result will be a relevant printed magazine with a relevant audience who is not migrating to the internet because the cake you’ve baked can’t be found on the net. Happy eating, oops, I meant happy reading.
PS: And for those who still doubt the power of relevant content to a relevant audience, check the video below of my 17 month old grandson searching for Ernie page by page for more than 21/2 minutes. I am grooming him to be the next Mr. Magazine™ junior.


  1. I totally agree. In Australia, some magazines are blurring the lines between editorial and advertising more and more for ad dollars. What they don’t realise is that they are turning off readers in the process.

  2. I also agree. The local food magazine I own has grown during this economy while other pubs are shrinking. Our #1 goal is to please the reader so we have built a very loyal following. We want authentic content that puts useful content into the readers’ hands each month. Once you cross the line into advertorial you lose readers’ trust. Then you’re screwed.

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