Publisher's Paradox: The Irony of Print in a Digital World
The Paradox: The only thing that differentiates your content brand in a digital world is a print magazine.
The Sea of Sameness
No matter what magazine you publish, or niche you serve, I guarantee there's a digital-only competitor churning out content that appeals to your audience. Online, everything looks the same: Slap a masthead brand in the top left corner, create a credible looking navigation scheme, dump your content into the body and surround it with advertising.
In the online world we're forced, by consumer consumption habits, to deliver content that's designed using solved problems. Content that fits into a set of best-practices and web standards that make consuming the content easy for our audience to consume.
What we end up with, in the online world, is a sea of sameness. We end up with a digital presence in which our content, and the heritage brand it represents, is indiscernible from a two-day old digital start-up running out of a basement office.
Pumping up Perceived Value
"No matter what research or study you look at, it's consistent that magazine content is trusted unbiased media, influential, and builds authoritative relationships between brand and reader," stated Mary Brenner, CEO of the Magazine Publishing Association at last year's Annual Magazine Conference.
Over the last ten years, most publishers have emphasized the plethora of digital properties and opportunities to engage advertisers and audiences. The problem is, the audience and your advertisers still attach value to the print product that differentiates your offering in the marketplace and we, as publishers, haven't done much to exploit that value.
Ironically, many of the digital-only content brands I've built a relationship with have evolved to be more like the magazines I enjoyed over the last decade, while the magazines I used to consume have devolved into pathetic destinations full of top five lists and pathetic attempts at creating 'viral' content. It's sad really.
Art of Manliness Vs. Maxim
I used to enjoy Maxim magazine. Today, I spend time reading The Art of Manliness. Both content platforms cater to men like me. Both websites look similar. Both websites have articles about gin (one of my favorite drinks.) Only one of them has a print magazine and only one of them has content worth consuming. (Hint: it's not Maxim.)
I canceled my Maxim subscription years ago: why? Maxim stopped creating high-quality content that built towards the drop of each issue. Instead, they emphasized the lower quality content on their website. However, if you asked me which brand was more valuable I'd immediately, without question, tell you that Maxim's brand is worth more. Why? They have a print magazine.
How long will publishers be able to exploit the value of their print publication as a differentiator in the marketplace? I have no idea. I do know that every print publisher could do a better job of defining the role of the print publication in the digital world.
The Publisher's Challenge
In this week's staff meeting I challenge you to consider the ways in which you leverage your print magazine to differentiate the online experience you have built. Do you create content that drives interest in subscribing or buying the print product? Do you "show your work" in the digital world when you're working on a feature for the print magazine? Do you leverage the online world to determine what you should print?
There's only one thing that differentiates your brand in a digitally-driven world. Ask yourself, what are you doing to exploit it?
Steal These Slides
I invite you to steal these slides and present this paradox to your team.