As an interactive agency, it goes without saying that we love all things digital and all the possibilities that the Internet affords. But as designers, we can’t help but also love print. So we’re really psyched to see a growing interest that brands have in publishing their own magazines.
This article asks whether “print is the new black” since it seems that more companies are looking to create niche magazines with bona fide editorial content as a complement to digital marketing and in lieu of more traditional forms of “disruptive,” outbound TV and print marketing.
While being reported as a trend, this analog version of what digital marketers call “content marketing” is what the print industry has always referred to as custom publishing. It’s been around for while. Apparently, farming equipment maker John Deere has been publishing a quarterly journal about agriculture called The Furrow for over 118 years! Who knew?
Luxury, fashion and lifestyle brands have taken note and have been getting into the game over the past decade. Bigger players like the auto maker Lexus began publishing Lexus on a quarterly basis in 2002 while niche players like the Stockholm-based fashion label Acne founded the bi-annual culture magazine Acne Paper in 2005.
These magazines are hardly tawdry, promotional rags or insipid, photo-free trade journals. No, these are top-flight, glossy publications staffed by top editors, designers and other professionals. They look and feel as seductive as their mass circulation, consumer publishing counterparts. Just take a look at the recent redesign of Four Seasons Magazine or at Acne Paper and you’ll see what I mean.
Behind this trend is the difficulty in differentiating a product in today’s crowded marketplace. A magazine comprised of independent editorial content and not just dissembled product promotion gives companies a rich way of engaging customers, fostering their values, promoting their mission or creating context for the brand itself.Ironically, magazines can have more engagement than websites, where visits can literally be just a few seconds long. Advocates of the analog approach say that brand magazines foster stronger relationships with customers and create a significant amount of “goodwill.”
If customers prefer to engage with editorial content rather than with product advertisements, then it might make sense for companies to spend the money and resources on magazine publishing. That’s the conclusion of one fashion industry observer quoted in one New York Times article.
‘Why spend €40,000 a page to advertise in Vogue when, for the same amount of money, you can publish an entire magazine?’ Alice Litscher, a fashion communication professor at the Institut Français de la Mode in Paris, asked The New York Times.
Apart from increased brand engagement (assuming you can get your magazine into the hands of your customers), print affords other advantages. Among these, a magazine is a tangible, tactile object, which has some shelf-life and which can be designed to be appealing in and of itself. In essence, a magazine is its own platform and not one living on someone else’s platform, competing with other brands that are just a click away.
Another key advantage of a magazine is that it may be an easier way to stand out from a crowd now that marketing budgets in many industries are tilted heavily in favor of digital marketing.
We are excited to see what the future brings. There won’t be the sheer number of magazines as in the past but the future of the magazine and the opportunity of blending editorial print content with digital functionality and community could never be brighter.