As the world becomes increasingly digitized, print media companies have been forced to evolve or go the way of the dinosaur. Newspapers and magazines nationwide have been making dramatic cuts over the past several years in the effort to remain in business. The dismal state of the American economy has not helped. Advertising budgets have been slashed in many companies, denying struggling print periodicals much-needed revenue.
Although last year some analysts predicted that print ad revenue would stabilize in tandem with the economy, it appears that is not actually the case. Advertising dollars have been rerouted to online media outlets, resulting in much of the decline in advertising income for print media permanent.
Publishing companies are being forced to get creative in their efforts to expand and generate new interest—and revenue. Glossy magazines, which have been suffering due to years of advertising losses resulting from the recession and stiff online competition are, in particular, making dramatic attempts to think outside the (mail) box.
Condé Nast teamed up with Hewlett-Packard to propose offering readers magazine content that can be printed out at home. This would benefit Condé Nast by reducing printing and shipping costs, and boost sales of printer ink, a plus for HP. As incentive for consumers to sign up for the print-your-own-periodical service, the information technology giant is launching an “Instant Ink” subscription plan which offers discounts on ink cartridges to participants.
Condé Nast has also teamed up with Amazon to have their titles distributed digitally via the new e-reader the Kindle Fire. With its full-color capabilities, it is much better suited to displaying colorful magazine content than its black-and-white predecessors. It will be released next month.
Another way Condé Nast is working to improve the longevity of their print media is through creating an entertainment division and instating former president of entertainment for the CW television network Dawn Ostroff at the helm.
“Everybody has have been saying for years that content is king, and there are many different forms of that,” said Ostroff during an interview for thewrap.com. “These magazines are the highest level of content that there is, and to take that brand of content that now is in magazine form and adapt it to other types—be it television shows or feature films or digital channels and again across the different platforms—means there are going to be many types of opportunities depending on the magazines and what their goals are.”
Ostroff also went on to say during the interview that Condé Nast will be trying to broaden their content into a variety of different media.
“It’s across all platforms, but I’m excited about digital content, certainly. You’re looking at Netflix and YouTube and Amazon, all the different companies that are looking for digital content, and Condé Nast, in many regards, is first on their list,” she said to thewrap.com.
Hearst Corp. also chose to go the same TV and video route by purchasing a 50 percent stake in the production company belonging to reality TV mogul Mark Burnett and pitching a new show that would somehow intertwine with five Hearst publications.
Having the opportunity to be involved with a well-viewed TV program “provides us with a successful business but allows us to get other things done,” namely opening the door to new advertisers, said Scott Sassa, Hearst’s syndication and entertainment president, according to asweek.com. However, Hearst is committed to evolving their print products, not eliminating them.
“Our core product will continue to be our print product,” said Michael Clinton, marketing president and publishing director at Hearst, to adweek.com.
One example of a successful relationship between television content and magazines is the reality show Project Runway. The magazines Elle and Marie Claire have benefitted through integrated ad buys.
In a similar vein, many fashion magazines are opting to enter the retailing business by partnering with web sites that sell the clothes depicted within the publication. It’s a win-win situation, providing the magazines with additional revenue, and bolstering a site’s credibility with shoppers by affiliating them with a popular publication. Fashionistas with magazine subscriptions can follow the latest trends in print then head straight to their laptop to snap up runway designs.
“What magazines have always done is to create desire in consumers,” said David Granger, the editor in chief of Esquire to The New York Times. “The next logical step is to fulfill that desire by selling the product. If we don’t do it, somebody else is going to.”
The outcome of such partnerships will be interesting, as they could place magazines such as GQ, Vogue and Esquire into direct completion with high-end retailers like Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue.
“There are no boundaries anymore,” said Howard Socol a consultant who used to be chief executive of Barneys, to The Times. “There’s competition for everything. But it is kind of interesting, if you are a store, because you’re advertising in a magazine that is competing with you.”
However, David Granger of Esquire points out that retailers have long been encroaching on the turf of fashion magazines. With big-name photographers being contracted to shoot the spreads, retail catalogs such as Barneys New York even feature spreads depicting celebrities.
“Magazines don’t want to get left behind,” explained Granger to The Times, which is why they are moving towards e-commerce.
Editor in chief of the popular shopping magazine Lucky, Brandon Holley, makes the claims that in partnering with retail websites, magazines will need to exercise caution that they do not appear to be endorsing items and things they don’t believe in, or they will run the risk of their readers losing faith in them.
However, as she told The New York Times, “If I’m showing you a great boot online, and you can’t buy it right there, that’s not all right anymore. The reader expects to be able to buy it where she sees it.”