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When Print Seems Unhip, Digital Replacement is Not the Answer. The Mr. Magazine™ M.O. Column in Publishing Executive Magazine

April 12, 2013

Editor’s Note: My column this month in Publishing Executive magazine was accompanied by a short video that appears on your smart phone when you sit down with the magazine and enjoy some quality reading. So enjoy the video first and then read the column. Any and all comments are more than welcomed!

Joint Effort
When print seems unhip, digital replacement is not the answer
photoIn the publishing world you have to stay on top of the latest trends. (Word number one: trends.) And you also need to be as contemporary and innovative as possible. (Words two and three: contemporary and innovative.) Those three words are the only constant in a sea of change.

For some inexplicable reason, the powers-that-be in some publishers’ offices think that in order to be hip­—that is, synonymous with the word-trio trends (trendy), contemporary and innovative—you must accentuate the digital before you mention the print. Think of the many hip-sounding initiatives starting with “digital first.” Or, as has happened on more than one occasion, you may decide to do away with print altogether.

Many of you know that I am not among the followers of that religion. Doing “hip replacement” surgery on your product by taking away the print version and putting in a new digital one is not the answer. Modifying your “hipness” by conjoining the two, on the other hand, is.

With that last statement fermenting in your mind, let me elaborate. Print publishing still brings in the majority of the publishing industry’s revenue. Let me repeat that: print publishing still brings in the majority of the publishing industry’s revenue. Not digital, in any platform. David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, recently announced that the total digital revenues from Hearst’s magazines is a mere 3 percent. That being said, digital has a place in the business. And that place is on the other hip. The left hip, and the first, will always be print (and yes, I am one of those folks who is willing to say ALWAYS and not just in the foreseeable future). The right hip, the other balance point on today’s two-legged creation, is digital.

Combining the two, without replacing either, is the business model of today’s magazine. Our audience-of-one demands and deserves it. Out of sight is proving continuously out of mind.

Print has, is, and always will be as trendy, contemporary and innovative as we make it. Our creative juices must oil the joints of the body of our work. We cannot expect to succeed in either medium without realizing that.

The key is exceeding our customer’s expectations in all areas of the creation, from the content to the design, from the ads to the masthead; the experience must create a community that our audience-of-one desires to be a part of. If that happens, we build communities filled with loyal and returning citizens. Give them that trip filled with adventure, excitement, and, above all, relevance to their wants and requirements, and we will have what we all want: success, and happy customers.

But you must peel the layers back from your print product and get down to the center of it. Is it as creatively written, designed, and endemically ad-placed as it could be? Do you publish a magazine about parenting and have ads for liquor and tobacco in it? Think about it.

Being trendy and hip in today’s market is about more than just placing that glossy, big-paying ad smack in the middle of your publication. You have to think like a reader. Imagine what kind of ad you would like to see between the two articles you actually bought the magazine for in the first place. If you’re reading a cooking magazine and there aren’t any ads for ingredients between those recipes, you’re going to be a bit disappointed and miffed.
It’s creative placement and execution that makes a magazine innovative and keeps it that way. Not just an app.

But if we balance that print body with our other stabilizng factor, digital, we see a well-rounded, secure creation that knows its place in both worlds.

Print and digital together, done well and with an inspired mindset, can make a magazine the hippest of all media out there. Successful magazine media are going to be content curators, solution creators and experience makers, pure and simple! PE

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