In both casual conversation with friends and more professional communication with prospective partners, a certain line of questioning seems to emerge time and time again. “What are you doing to prepare your brand for a post-print world?”, they inquire. “Don’t you know everything is digital now? The times are changing!”
There is something else that has completely changed and that is the way we interact with each other. Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we’re on video calls more than ever – and many are finding it exhausting. Our screen freezes. There’s a weird echo. A dozen heads stare at you. There are the work huddles, the one-on-one meetings and then, once you’re done for the day, the hangouts with friends and family. The digital burnout is real. Trust me when I say it.
I can’t really refute that last part: times are indeed changing. If they’re not, I’d like to congratulate the timekeeping industry on its incredibly successful global deception. And yet, some things – like the efficacy of print as an advertising medium – never change.
“Death of print” doomsaying was wrong before the pandemic and remains wrong now, even in an industry landscape still grappling with the challenges and changes wrought by the ongoing struggle with COVID-19.
I don’t jump to that conclusion by some feat of magic or wishful thinking: It’s simply a product of the facts. Yes, print is a mature media medium, but with age comes sophistication, refinement, and massive upside for marketers.
What lockdown? Magazines live where the readers do
I grant the critics this: visiting the local newsstand isn’t as easy as it may have been prior to COVID. On the flip side, visiting the newsstand is entirely unnecessary. While these vendors represent a reliable secondary and tertiary way of reaching consumers, the bread and butter of magazine distribution has always been subscription. In a world where thousands can’t leave their home and have become accustomed to the doorstep delivery of… well….everything, magazines offer the convenience consumers have been conditioned to expect.
a magazine enters a home as a desired, invited guest, not an unwelcome intruder on someone’s social media feed.
Advertisers stand to benefit from the trust that arises from the consensual nature of the magazine-subscriber relationship. And Your brand is the uninvited plus 1.
The advertising is a holistic part of a greater whole, one more piece of content carefully curated for the reader’s enjoyment at a time where people are craving the mental escape and sensory fulfillment that only the print experience can provide.
Magazines make marketing budgets go farther
One thing I’ve definitely taken note of as a publisher in COVID-world is the relative (very relative) scarcity of PR professionals in my inbox making overtures on behalf of their sponsor. More and more, the marketing teams seem to be reaching out and engaging with me directly, perhaps cognizant of the need to maximize reduced budgets as brands tighten their belts and conserve resources.
I genuinely sympathize with marketing reps who are trying to do more with less as a result of the pandemic and I consequently like to be very matter-of-fact when responding to their inquiries. I’ll be just as forthright here: magazines offer brands the best return on their ad spend. Period. Full stop.
I bring you this fact courtesy of Nielsen Catalina, whose review of over 1400 studies concluded that magazine ads return almost four dollars on each one dollar spent. For all the talk about the importance of digital in this pandemic, it’s not actually where the money is: return on digital displays trails print by nearly 40 per cent.
It’s right there in black and white: when every dollar in your campaign matters, magazines make them matter more.
Print packs the verticals people care about – wherever they care to consume it
At the risk of aging myself, I want to point out that the most widely-read verticals (fashion, lifestyle, and beauty) were the domain of magazines long before the very first influencer wrote their maiden blog. The lonely cousin (travel magazines) has always been at the bottom of the funnel when planning campaigns.
Experience counts here: magazines remain preeminent voices in these massive segments of interest, speaking effectively to an audience of roughly 1.8 billion (per MPA estimates). The best part? That audience is only going to continue to grow, not only in spite of COVID, but because of it.
Consider travel especially: how many well-deserved vacations were sidelined by the pandemic? How many millions are sitting at home daydreaming of that beach escape that just slipped away?
COVID is creating a demand and audience for travel (and travel-adjacent content, fashion and high-end goods)- unlike any before.
Those who supply it will reap eye-watering engagement on just about any platform they desire: the impact of magazine content is vast and easily transmittable to digital, web, mobile, and video formats, giving advertisers reach and reward beyond just the physical copy.