The latest ABC results show that print magazines are back… But, did they ever go away? Savvy brands know that there’s still nothing like the feel of the printed page in your hands.
If I’ve heard that ‘print is dead’ once, I’ve heard it a hundred times.
So, for nerds like me who get excited by this sort of thing, the latest ABC consumer magazine report, which was published last week, made for interesting reading. It showed that print is anything but dead. In fact, in some sectors it’s thriving and owned media is leading the way.
The ABC results chart circulation figures for all UK magazines, in both print and digital format, whether they’ve gone up or down, and by how much. The latest report covers activity in the second half of 2014. In recent years, the outlook across the board has been pretty grim and this time round there was the usual doom and gloom for certain sectors, such as lads’ mags, music magazines and even celebrity weeklies.
There were some winners. The publisher Dennis, for example, celebrated a 33rd consecutive increase in circulation for its news magazine The Week, plus healthy increases for its specialist motoring titles Octane and Evo. Other paid for titles such as Elle and children’s interest magazines also saw increases.
However, that’s not the really interesting bit. The exciting bit for print aficionados like myself is that there is an appetite for magazines despite the general assumption by marketers that readers want everything in a digital format. The big publishing houses have made significant efforts in recent years to implement digital strategies, but figures such as Grazia’s – 151,000 copies sold versus 4,000 digital subscriptions – or Good Housekeeping, that sells more than 400,000 hard copies but only has 344 digital subscribers, show that there are substantial numbers that still enjoy the physical experience of reading a print magazine.
Magazines: non-traditional marketing
Could it be that in our ‘always on’ world, where we do so much in front of a screen, flicking through actual pages is now an enjoyable novelty? Content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi, of the Content Marketing Institute in America, believes that magazines can now be considered as ‘non-traditional’ forms of marketing and as such, could excite and connect with audiences experiencing ‘screen fatigue’. Some brands are already on board with this and are investing in new magazines – I wrote about online fashion retailer Net a Porter’s new glossy in a blog last June. Imagine: a company whose roots are purely digital decide to produce a bi-monthly print magazine. But not without strategy – the magazine serves as a shop front for the products available on the site.
Elsewhere in the luxury market, fashion house Louis Vuitton launched a 126-page bi-annual publication, called The Book, last October, where as much love is lavished on its products’ heritage as it is on ‘iconic’ interviewees, such as Catherine Deneuve. The magazine is mailed to select customers only; a bonus for loyalty and, perhaps, securing continued brand advocacy.
Owned media has ruled the roost in terms of circulation figures for years – successive ABC results have shown branded magazines take the top slots. The latest report revealed the biggest circulation magazine in the UK is currently the National Trust Magazine, which is sent to 2.1m households three times a year, followed by magazines from Asda, Tesco, that both have circulations just under the 2m mark.
Yes, these magazines are free and so readers do not make a conscious decision to buy them, but they have continued to thrive in a climate where marketing budgets have been under extremely close scrutiny. The people who produce them know who they are talking to and the editorial is doing a job, whether that be to drive sales or to promote brand loyalty.
A targeted print magazine isn’t simply a ‘nice to have’. I believe it can be a valid and effective element of an integrated content marketing strategy. And it does feel rather nice in your hands.