Can Print Publishers Learn Something From Pornography?
So I was checking out the skin mags at the newsstand the other day. Hey, it’s part of my job! And I didn’t actually open any of them—honest! But I did notice something interesting.
As we all know, the good ol’-fashioned porn trade has fallen on hard times, what with all the competition from a little thing called the Internet. Here in Philadelphia, the last of the city’s XXX theaters closed late last year. Long considered a sore spot along a major downtown thoroughfare, the theater is slated to be replaced by—of all things—condos and cafes. Just another stake in the heart to those pining for that “Taxi Driver”-“French Connection” early-’70s vibe.
Things are no better for “gentleman’s” magazine publishers like Playboy Enterprises, Inc., Larry Flynt Publications and FriendFinder Networks (publisher of Penthouse). Surprisingly, on the day I scoped it out, Hustler was not even on the magazine rack, which was mostly made up of titles I’d never heard of like Cheri, Club and High Society. Two Playboy special editions were advertised as final issues. A lower rack with the familiar black privacy bar only held a couple of porno mags; it was mostly filled with the likes of Details, GQ and Men’s Journal.
All the sex magazines were wrapped in plastic and most were advertising DVDs inside. It seems these magazines won’t sell without video—perhaps the only way to compete with multimedia websites. There may be a few reasons for this. DVDs provide permanence beyond what is out there on the Web. With increasing monitoring of online activity, it’s a way to avoid leaving digital footprints. As for the value proposition, these magazines claim their ride-alongs carry a value up to $70, which may or may not be true but surely sounds good to consumers looking for the best deal.
Though it seems like a throwback to the ’90s, other magazine publishers might consider reintroducing CDs and DVDs occasionally—especially in the enthusiast space, highly pictorial magazines like National Geographic (which of course has robust video production capabilities) and special collector’s editions. One of the arguments for print is that it is a non-ephemeral object and keepsake. We all know how much people love video. If we’re going to play around with e-ink, augmented reality and digital watermarks in order to spice up print editions, maybe the occasional inclusion of hard-copy multimedia still makes sense.