At the just concluded FOLIO: Show, Kerry Smith, Red 7 Media CEO, offered a surprising view of what the future of print publishing might be. Challenged, like all publishing companies, with the decline of print ad revenue, Smith has diversified his organization’s offerings to include marketing services such as research, and consulting. But even as less of his company’s revenue is tied to print he is more committed to it. Why? Because he has found that his magazines are most often the first point of contact leading to the sale of all the other services he is now selling.
Today, publishers of all kinds are using the presence they have in their markets to start related businesses. For example:
• Premier Guitar, sells sheet music to subscribers
• Oil and Gas Journal sells industry data and research
• Dwell, a shelter book for the modern home, sells modern prefabricated homes
But this "new" trend where publishers use a magazine presence to sell products and services to readers is not so new. Marketers have used sponsored or branded magazines to do this for years. Despite the migration of ad dollars away from print magazines, the dollars flowing into sponsored magazines are going strong as documented early this year by The Financial Times:
According to the UK research body Mintel, this type of "customer publishing" is booming. It estimates that the industry in the UK alone is likely to be worth £1bn by 2013. Between 2008 and 2009 it grew 16 per cent, and by 2013 it is projected to increase by a further 22 per cent – no mean feat when the rest of the glossy magazine world is in the doldrums.
What attracts companies is the direct impact on consumers. "Our research has shown that these magazines create an eight per cent uptick in sales," says Julia Hutchison, chief operating officer of the Association of Publishing Agencies, the representative for the customer publishing industry in the UK. "On average, every customer spends 25 minutes reading these titles. That’s 25 minutes spent with the brand. Lots of companies are redirecting their ad and marketing spends to this avenue."
In the past, some sponsored publications were little more than product promos. But now, savvy marketers are investing in quality writers, photographers, and more objective journalism to attract larger audiences. The FT article continues:
"Whereas in-house magazines used to be glorified advertorials, today the branding is much more subtle and there’s a genuine effort to tap top editorial talents and introduce original material; Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, photographic stalwarts of the fashion publications Vogue and Visionaire, shot the latest YSL manifesto.
The investment makes sense: it gives depth to a brand in an environment they can control. It pushes product without the obvious "sell", and in many instances may be cheaper than advertising. Asos’ title, for instance, which is known for its mix of celebrity, shopping and entertainment, is now the second largest women’s fashion title in the UK with an annual circulation of 471,522. Terri Westlake, head of media at Asos.com, says, "Customers are savvy; they understand that it’s a brand title (and not independent), but they still appreciate a very good free magazine."
Print magazines can provide marketers with a "media marquee" that gives them consistent visibility hard to duplicate in the crowed online world. What Kerry Smith, and a growing number of publishers are taking advantage of is the same benefit marketers using sponsored publications have used for years…print magazines sell!