Need Versus Want – Why You Should Put Your Audience First? A Mr. Magazine™ Musing.April 23, 2014
“As the Magazine is published mainly for the purpose of furnishing information that is usually kept from the public, and which should be known by everybody, I ask those who believe in the work to aid in giving it circulation.”
Charles A. Lindbergh, Little Falls, Minnesota. Editor, Real Needs magazine, First issue, March 1916.
Those were the days, you may say? But reaching into my vault of first editions, I reached for Real Needs’ first issue from March 1916 that was edited by Charles Lindbergh. The name alone was the perfect setting for my musing and his letter from the editor was the perfect lead of this column.
Audience first – is it as important as it sounds? Well, of course it is, especially in this digital age. Audience first is the right thing for any media outlet, but most definitely for magazines.
Some of the major magazines and newspapers were started based on the premise that they were needed. That concept was never more important than in the early days of publishing. People needed their information and they needed to get it from the magazines and the newspapers that were around at the time. For them printed media was the equivalent of our Internet. So the need was there and that need became strong enough years later to even bolster many ad-free models.
For example, DeWitt Wallace’s Reader’s Digest was established with no ads. Roy Reiman’s Country, Taste of Home and a host of other magazines were published for years with no advertising but rather depended on circulation to survive. Highlights, Consumer Reports and many others also still depend solely on their audience for revenue.
The question today is what has changed? And the answer is very simple – with the flurry of platforms and outlets available, publishers of magazines and newspapers are no longer in the business of satisfying a need, because there are tons of ways to fulfill a person’s requirements these days.
In this, the 21st century, we are in the “want” business. I truly believe no one needs a magazine (yes, I will go on record saying this time and time again) or a newspaper today. But there are millions of people who want magazines and magazine publishers need to work to meet those wants.
So what does that mean?
It means, again very simply, the audience must and should come first. Audience-first thinking will drive up revenues and all things good for magazines and magazine media. You must captivate with dazzling content that is necessary (feeding the want), sufficient (satisfying the want) and relevant (meeting the addiction) to your targeted audience. You have to deliver an experience that is memorable, addictive, and exciting.
If that sounds easy or virtually impossible – you’re right on both counts. There is a simplicity to it and at the same time it can be as complex as a Rubik’s Cube to figure out.
We have to reach the right audiences with our content via the relevant platform. That platform may be print or digital or an integration of the two – but regardless, we have to have an entry point to the audience that means something to them.
The WIIIFM Factor?
What is in it for me – the ultimate question for our customer and one that must be answered completely and satisfyingly if there is any hope of keeping them first when it comes to the content and the product. Because if there isn’t an investment for them, rest assured they may buy your magazine once, but there won’t be a return visit.
Building that connection with the audience is what publishers want and is vital to the life of their magazines. For without that kindred alliance, you’re just putting words on a page or pixels on a screen without any real hope of getting anything back.
Audience first? Always!
© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.