No. Print marketing is far from dead.
Look around. Chances are you still read plenty of print media, even if some of your attention has been eroded by digital alternatives. There is a very, very long way to go before your local newsagent closes the doors and the bookseller remainders the last of his stock. While print publishers may be struggling to adjust to a digital world, print marketers may provide a lucrative alternative model for the print industry. To understand why, we need to think of print marketing as far more than just the glossy adverts in magazines or classifieds in newspapers.
A new model
Print marketing and branded content is not new. Michelin started printing the Michelin Guide in 1900. Yet, while some magazines may be struggling due to declining sales and waning advertising revenue, branded content is enjoying a resurgence.
Advertising is the driving force behind the traditional print business model. Sales are often a much smaller proportion of the bottom line. Branded content, however, has a different business model — and is, therefore, increasingly immune to the broader decline in print media.
As branded content is about increasing awareness and sales of the overall brand, the return on investment is found in the bottom lines of departments and product arms elsewhere in the business, instead of being confined to the advertising sales department. NRMA still sends out the free print edition of Open Road Magazine to members, helping to increase brand loyalty, encourage member access to NRMA services and reduce churn — all of which bring a positive impact to the bottom line.
Magazine sales and/or advertising revenue may help offset the costs of these marketing initiatives, but the real benefits are felt elsewhere in the business.
Marrying print and digital
Since 2002, Kraft has printed Food & Family Magazine every quarter, stuffed with an array of recipe ideas. The magazine is still testament to a successful marketing strategy. The print edition, however, is only available with a paid subscription, while the same content can be viewed for free online by registering on the website. What Kraft's magazine demonstrates is that many consumers still place a value on having a printed, hard-copy version — easier to refer to in the kitchen perhaps, or for reading anywhere without a Wi-Fi connection.
Targeting a niche
Mainstream publishers have to rapidly adapt to a changing, fragmented market for print content. Broad magazines that try to appeal to everyone are struggling in a world where people can find more specific, more authoritative and niche content from a variety of competing sources. A sports magazine that only has space to devote a couple of columns to women's soccer every month, for example, is far less interesting to a readership seeking out this content. Why spend a high cover price on generic content when there are more specialised publications, websites and blogs available that offer more detailed, in-depth coverage?
Instead of chasing massive readerships, many publishers are moving towards niche publications to capture smaller, more engaged markets with more relevant content. That's why when you visit the newsagent now you can find titles on everything from toy train collecting to apron sewing. This also gives marketers an opportunity to be far more targeted and efficient with their advertising. Instead of spending an eye-watering amount to advertise to a broad readership, 75 per cent or more of whom may be totally outside your target market, a marketer can spend less to advertise in a smaller, niche publication where 100 per cent of the readership are potential customers. In other words, it's about quality, not quantity.
While digital may be attracting a significant amount of attention these days, print content is still in demand. Just as radio wasn't made redundant by the arrival of television, print media is merely adapting to a world of different reading choices.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Jonathan has worked within, and written about, the technology industry for many years. Before going freelance as a writer in 2012, Jonathan had worked for Netregistry (web hosting) and Ninefold (cloud computing). Jonathan has won awards for his articles on online business for Nett Magazine and his over-opinionated blog Atomik Soapbox. He continues to write for Chief Content Officer magazine.