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The 4 ways print publications can reinvigorate their offerings

Ad Age 23 Apr 2019 09:00

There’s no shortage of headlines about storied print publications scaling back or shutting down entirely. Ad Age, for one, called it a category in “secular decline” in its 2019 Publishers A-List. 

From a media perspective, print publishers have a unique opportunity to reinvigorate their brands. If we treated these publishers the way we do clients, I’d tell them that they have storied legacies and enormous amounts of brand equity—what they need now is to evolve their offerings in a way that puts print in the center of a more disruptive offering. Here’s how:

Reimagine the bundle
Much has been said about publishers such as The New York Times and Scribd bundling their subscription services together. But this can go further, both in the breadth of publisher-to-publisher partnerships we see and, frankly, in expanding bundles beyond just publications. 

What if a music magazine offered a full-year subscription that also unlocks a free month of Spotify premium? Or imagine if a beauty publication collaborated with Birchbox to unlock exclusive content, deeper discounts and limited-edition products. The same could be said if Bon Appetit or Travel & Leisure partnered with Try the World, a food subscription box. It’s a one-two punch for consumers: They get a better price and a different type of value. It doesn’t just have to be d-to-c brands that publishers partner with either, but think of these as a jumping-off point.

Beyond bundling, print publications can partner with other brands to develop surprising and creative uses of media. This past August, The New York Post published a cover wrap with nothing but the Supreme logo on the front. The issue sold out within hours and by 10:30 a.m. it was reselling on eBay for $12. 

It might seem like lightning in a bottle, but it’s really a call for publishers to push the envelope. And you start by doing what we tell all of our clients to do: figure out where your consumers’ passion points lie, where they’re spending their time and how to get in on it.

Push print to be more high-tech 
Nearly all smartphones have some sort of visual search capabilities embedded into their cameras. That means publishers now have the opportunity to make their pages interactive and shoppable. Users can scan a photo of a model to learn his or her backstory. Or scan a pair of jeans to see where to buy them online or where the nearest physical store is—and getting a big discount from the retailer in doing so. What’s key is giving people a real incentive. 

Beyond digital integrations for the pages themselves, unsurprisingly, print franchises need to fully tap into the larger media ecosystem to survive. Follow the media consumption trends. An amazing print article cam be transcribed into an audio experience and pushed out in contextually relevant podcasts. A partner such as SpokenLayer can get that done. Or, see how The Atlantic works with Audm to recreate its print articles into audio stories. 

Move beyond digital as well. For example, New York Magazine did a holiday pop-up store to promote The Strategist, its product recommendation vertical. It featured 250 picks from the magazine’s editors—and enabled the magazine to generate revenue from commission on the deals. 

Your staff are influencers—treat them that way
How do print brands engage with their audiences in between on-sale dates? Websites and publisher social feeds aren’t enough. Work with your editors and best columnists to build them cult followings, and then maximize this talent across channels. 

For example, if the editors from Allure flooded top beauty podcasts over the course of one month, these podcasters could have featured articles published in the print mag, or serve as guest beauty editors. The cross-pollination would drive traffic back-and-forth, and you could further build your staff’s influencer brands.

Lean hard into social here specifically on a personal level for these staffers. If they’re not already, have them provide daily inspiration on Instagram, Q&As through Twitter chats, maybe even live unboxing videos if they’re up for it. 

Think beyond the pages
We’re at an exciting time in the industry where complementary partnerships, technology and the power of influencers are shaking things up. Remember that print brands have a long-standing and powerful heritages, so while some physical publications may fade away, it doesn’t mean that the brand fades away too. Publishers can thrive now and in the future if they continue to think out-of-the-box and beyond the pages.  

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