How Do Print Magazines Connect?
By Margaret Evans
When digital media and online information exploded, pundits forecasted the demise of print media. People by the millions were sourcing information online, and it’s no accident that the word “Google” shifted from being a noun to a verb.
And yet, on the bookshelf in my den is a stash of magazines that includes a collection of many and varied science publications and the almost-complete collection of Canadian Horse Journal (CHJ). This includes all the issues of the current national magazine and most of the earlier issues of the regional magazine Pacific & Prairie Horse Journal going back to the early 1990s. I am not alone: 92 percent of CHJ readers save their copies for more than six months (39 percent save them forever). But why?
For many of us, reading the daily newspaper and accessing information from books and magazines was the habit in our homes when we were growing up. And although several newspapers and magazines are no longer available, a significant number of print magazines have not only survived but are thriving thanks to their readers’ appetite for interesting and reliable content, convenience, and the tangible experience of holding the printed magazine in their hands while reading.
Magazines are the most personal of media
Print stimulates our senses. Our brains are wired to engage more deeply with print. Today, just as in the past, magazines that arrive by mail are eagerly awaited and shared around the household. Even though readers can source the digital version online, studies show they still wait for the print version to arrive by mail or become available at the newsstand to fully digest the magazine’s contents. Unlike newspapers that need broad appeal and must compete with the immediacy of the web, print magazines offer a longer, slower, focused read with tailored content that delivers the enjoyment, credibility, and trust so important to both readers and advertisers.
“One exclusive quality that print has and the digital media can never match is just how tangible it is,” explains Aisling McCarthy in Media Update. “Consumers are able to browse through a magazine, feel the paper and even distinguish between certain paper densities and compositions. For example, one specific advert may be printed on a thicker, more porous paper that is easy to take notice of, compared to the rest of the glossy sheets in the magazine. Also, there’s the smell of ink on paper that adds to the overall experience of reading something printed.”
Mark Beare, director of content marketing agency The Publishing Partnership, describes the benefit of experiencing “place” in reading and how it serves to create better attention and recall compared to digital. “Very often, when you read something from a printed magazine or book you can recall where on the physical page it was when you saw it – you can recall if you were two-thirds of the way through, or half of the way through.”
Print is growing in Canada because Canadians love their magazines. Some 200 magazine launches occurred between 2010 and 2015 and 50 percent of all Canadian magazines today were launched after the Internet became commercially viable over 20 years ago.
A report looking at magazine readership in Canada from July 2017 to June 2018 from Vividata, a Canadian provider of cross-platform audience measurements for publishers, marketers and media agencies, showed the following:
- 9 out of 10 Canadians read a magazine in the past three months;
- 1 in 3 magazine readers searched online for a product, brand, or service advertised in a magazine;
- Nearly 25 percent of readers used a discount offered in a magazine.
Magazines create meaningful experiences
Readers have an expectation that their magazine’s content will be engaging and satisfying – and worth paying for. They don’t want to miss a single issue. This is why 80 percent or more take out a subscription according to Magazines Canada, and their description of each title as “a personal oasis of engagement” rings true.
Magazines speak to readers in unique, personal ways, and readers value the time spent absorbing their magazine’s content, and save their copies for future reference. A magazine with engaging, curated content connects with their passions and offers solutions, new ideas, or a variation on an approach to achieving success. When readers are absorbed in interesting articles, advertising messages are not an interruption but rather a window to what’s new and important.
Magazines connect passion to performance
Research confirms that advertising is an essential component of magazines. A strategically written advertisement will be viewed by readers as an extension of information and read as part of the overall editorial package. Marketers know that the time spent reading an ad will imprint the brand name, the brand logo, and the key strategic benefits. This is compressed communication at its finest and complements a magazine’s strength and ability to deliver the message.
Buying advertising space means buying access to a magazine’s readers. Magazine readers are typically upper income females, a demographic that aligns with horse industry participants of whom 79 percent are female, well-educated Internet users with higher-than-average household incomes.
Magazines Canada research shows that 73 percent of magazine readers regularly or sometimes save magazine ads, complementing a magazine’s ability to communicate what is new and important, and denoting the advertisement as a focal point for both a new idea and a brand purchase. Marketers who buy into the mistaken notion that “print is dead” are doing themselves a disservice and missing out on a novel way to connect with their target audience.
In this era of media clutter, “fake news,” and a world saturated with trivia, engaging consumers has become a core challenge for advertisers who desire a closer consumer connection. Magazines offer credibility, a safer ad environment, and truer audience engagement compared to mindlessly scrolling through mobile feeds.
“Once they start reading, there are no other bits of news, auto-playing videos or pop-ups taking the spotlight off the article,” McCarthy explains. “This means that a reader’s full attention is oriented to that specific content, which guarantees a greater engagement with the brand since the reader is more likely to be impacted by it and remember it long-term.”
Print stimulates the senses and focuses attention. Readers are drawn by their interests and passions to magazines which reinforce their sense of belonging to a community, and invite them to relax in a world in which they feel comfortable, and enjoy an engaged, uninterrupted experience. And being superbly portable, a print magazine can be read anywhere, anytime, without power or an internet connection.
Brands that understand print and use it strategically know how it motivates readers to buy. Magazine advertising is highly persuasive, yet accountability research demonstrates that magazines are undervalued in the media mix. Blue-chip advertisers are increasing their participation in magazines, and world-wide studies prove that dollar-for-dollar magazines deliver more bang for the media buck. The Columbia Journalism Review calls print “the new ‘new media’” and a novel platform that cuts through the clutter, and has its place as a component of a diverse, cross-platform strategy.
Magazines Canada.ca; Vividata.ca; 2010 Canadian Horse Industry Profile Study
Main photo: iStock/Jack F