The View From The Tree: 6 Things Digital Natives Should Know About Print

photographed from a book titled the 'National Encyclopedia', published in London in 1881. Copyright has expired on this artwork. Digitally restored.

With several prominent web sites launching magazines, Newsweek starting to rise from the ashes, and many titles seeing increased ad pages, 2013 was the year print forgot to die. It was the year our industry seemed to reach consensus that, for many years to come, we will derive much of our profit from putting ink on paper.

But now that it’s clear Gutenberg won’t be leaving the building any time soon, we face a new challenge: ourselves. The “print is dead” mantra has so permeated our brains that in our meetings, conferences, and publications, we’ve stopped talking about how to be successful with dead-tree editions or the implications of the latest print-related developments. I can’t remember the last time I saw an article about cool inserts and other special print options for advertisers or on the best methods for recruiting new print subscribers. And pity the newcomers who thought they would work only in the digital arena but are now being told to sell integrated ad packages or to promote print subscriptions.

So to help those of you who joined our industry in the iPad era, as well as those who’ve been around since before Al Gore invented the internet but need a refresher, here’s a look at some of the unique challenges and opportunities of printed magazines:

Printed Magazines Have Multiple Uses
It’s not just about subscriber and newsstand copies. Some sponsors pay big money to attach their message to magazines distributed at events and to other targeted groups. Distributing to hair salons, waiting rooms, and other public places will boost your brand’s visibility and web traffic—and your circulation. Magazines are a great “leave behind” for salespeople who are pitching to prospective clients, even if they’re only selling digital media.

Printed Magazines Can Be Customized
Magazines are so versatile because they can be customized with stickers, special cover versions, regional and demographic sections, polybagged brochures, and personalized messages. Putting a belly band on every subscriber copy would be expensive and cause problems with postal delivery, but putting a sponsor’s message on 500 belly bands for copies at a conference can be extremely profitable. A cover wrap can remind a reader that her subscription is about to expire. You can send a jewelry insert only to your female subscribers or a luxury auto ad only to the affluent ones.

Related story: Mobile Web Traffic Continues Rapid Rise, Monetization Strategies Emerging

D. Eadward Tree is a pseudonymous magazine-industry insider who provides insights on publishing, postal issues, and print media on his blog, Dead Tree Edition.

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  • Jeff Gayduk

    i think the point that many people miss about the value of print is that while it’s a dead tree, it’s also truly evergreen. I can start an article one day and get half-way through, dog ear the page and return back to it in a day, week, month or year. From and advertiser’s perspective you can expose your brand to your desired buyer multiple times in the same publication. With so much information flowing into our inboxes,if you don’t read a digital article in its entirety immediately, it’s taillights.Case in point: my deleted email and previous browser sessions are littered with good intentions.
    That’s also why in my opinion why digital magazines don’t perform. No one is going to power through an online publication in one sitting and the technology I’ve seen doesn’t render itself well to reading digital publications in small batches.