Print is Fighting Back…But is it Winning?
The future of print-its prognosis, really-was the topic of Forum Day at the Distripress Congress in Toronto, a day when industry luminaries gathered to share their views of our challenges and opportunities in the coming years.
John Cruickshank, publisher of the Toronto Star and president of Star Media Group, led with a keynote in which he told the assembled group, "We've heard enough about the carnage. It's time to talk about exciting, print-based initiatives."
From the perspective of the Star, exciting initiatives there are aplenty, though many include digital tie-ins. Cruickshank and his team use digital to create opt-in products that boost the value of print and allow multiple points of entry to the content. To enter the opt-in world, Cruickshank advises, publishers need to remember a few important points:
1. Understand reader expectations. Take the time to survey them to find out.
2. Don't over-serve. If your audience is looking for simple content, don't invest huge resources in delivering a multi-media experience that might not be embraced.
3. Get the pricing right. If you start too low, it could be hard to increase, even if the audience would have initially been happy to pay a higher price for the content.
4. Make it easy to find and subscribe to the opt-ins.
5. Sample all your subscribers.
6. Keep costs low, and
7. Invest in marketing.
By staying streamlined and audience-centric, publishers can add value without skyrocketing costs. And while costs need to be managed, perhaps now more than ever, Cruickshank warned that a single-minded focus on cost-cutting can be debilitating, even deadly, if not coupled with growth initiatives.
Cruickshank was followed by Samir Husni, the University of Mississippi's "Mr. Magazine," who urged the publishers present to think of themselves as experience makers, not solely content providers. "We are in the business of creation and innovation," Husni said. "Our job is to grab and keep our audience's attention-to meet and exceed their expectations."
Husni went on to say that we need to fall back in love with print-we need to re-embrace our mission. We have created a welfare information society, he said, wherein we have devalued what we have to offer in the eyes of our audience and, worse, in our own. Not every product will survive, and many will evolve into a new form.
But print, Husni said, is not dead. Some publishers might be committing suicide, and that's their choice. "Choose to commit suicide," Husni said. "But do not preach suicide."
Linda Ruth, as president of PSCS Consulting (www.PSCSConsulting.com), offers communication companies worldwide the keys to magazine launches, search engine optimization and audience development online and at retail. She is a pioneer in the fields of Online Audience Optimization (OAO) and gamification for content publishers. Her books, "Internet Marketing for Magazine Publishers" ; "How to Market your Newsstand Magazine"; and "Secrets of SEO for Publishers" can be found on Amazon. Find her online at Google Plus, Magazine Dojo, LinkedIn, and Twitter @Linda_Ruth.