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Six Editorial Forms That Work Better in Print Than Online

Can magazines survive? Yes, if we rethink their content.


Josh Gordon By Josh Gordon
02/17/2010 -09:20 AM






Magazine editors still suffer from a sense of entitlement. Most grew up in a world where if you created articles that were well-written, relevant, and targeted for their audience it would automatically attract an audience...and advertisers. But the many new ways readers get content, by the time a magazine arrives to compete for a reader's attention, a lot of content needs have been satisfied. Magazines edited with an "If you build it they will come" mentality are now in danger.

But despite the more efficient online and mobile ways to get content to readers there are still some types of content that is better delivered in print. As we move into a Web centric world these are forms of editorial print publications should consider embracing.

This is the new job for every editor of a print magazine: coming up with content that is best delivered in print for your particular market.

1. Analytical content. In depth content where the reader may want to set aside a magazine and pick it up later, re-read passages for clarity, or write notes or highlight detailed passages are better delivered in print. Technical journals, analytical articles, or detailed content can work better in print.

Want proof? Take a look at the struggling newsweeklies. US News & World Report scaled back its frequency to monthly with Newsweek and Time struggling. But the one newsweekly whose revenue, and paid circulation, is stable and growing is the more analytical Economist.

2. Marquee content. A print publication can often call attention to a single feature article and get it noticed above the crowds better than websites. A monthly publication carrying a feature article can time shift its way through a reader's life over the course of a month. Can't read it on the day arrives? It will be on your desk a week after. Not in your office? Take it on the plane. It has an entire month work its way into the reader's life. Websites, in contrast, are under tremendous pressure to be constantly updated to maintain large audiences. It is rare a single piece of content will be featured for an entire month. If an article is featured as a magazine's cover story it truly becomes a piece of marquee content. It is rare that a website home page can match the focused longevity of a magazine cover story.

Want proof? When was the last time you heard someone refer to a piece of content that ran on a website as a "cover story?"

3. Award content. A few years ago a full-page photo of me ran in SellingPower magazine. I immediately got a call from a company offering to take my 4-color page into a plaque for my office. It's a real thrill to be written up in a print magazine, where the honor has a sense of permanence no website can duplicate. Framing a write up you get on a website don't have the same impact.

Want proof? Take a look at Media Post Publications. Media Post Publications, which maintains a monthly print edition that is heavily used when they create award programs.

4. Directive content. One way that print applications can offer a real service to readers is to offer direction to readers on where to find content on the Internet, before they get online. Content overview guides offer a real service real service. Laying out the kinds of websites offering which content can be a great service. Magazines can become a sort of table of contents to a new web journey.

Want proof? A newspaper executive from an organization that has extensive online holdings once described his print newspaper component as being the table of contents do they are online content.

5. Content on the go. As of now there is no live Internet access on airplanes. No restrooms, awkward in waiting rooms, limited access on trains and busses. Guide books at trade shows. If you want to reach traveling rock and roll bands, electrical contractors who are always out in their trucks, or any other mobile demographic, print has an advantage.

Want proof? Look around any airport.

6. Reference content. If you have content that simply cannot be found anywhere else, a print publication is a great way to release and keep relative control over it. Directories, research, and unique content that only you can provide work well in print.

But these only begin the process. It is imperative that every editor of a print publication rethink their editorial mission with the consideration that much content they publish and also be found online. How and what they choose to publish must offer a more compelling read in the same content found for free online.





Josh Gordon By Josh Gordon -- Josh Gordon is president of Smarter Media Sales.com where he works with publishers to maximize their online and print revenue through training, consulting, and representation.

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