Has technology really killed publishing?

Technology has brought us inventions that have drastically changed the way we consume media, both within the realms of physical experience and the digital platforms we use to access it. However, many people still hold physical connections dearly and there are countless examples of people, organisations and industries bucking the trend by rejecting technology in order to create successful businesses whilst amassing huge followings in the process.

One industry these advancements have affected in unprecedented ways is the world of print media, and more specifically the magazine industry. Across the last five years alone, countless magazines have been pulled from the shelves, largely by mainstream, more established publishing houses. Conversely, hundreds of new magazines have launched, and are finding success within their own niches. The rise of carefully considered new magazines, with relevant, new, and original content, is hard to ignore. Despite their higher price points, less frequent issue releases, and lower newsstand presence.

A great example of this can be seen in the hugely successful Kinfolk magazine. Now with an audience on a global scale (Chinese, Russian, Korean, and Japanese versions are now available), Kinfolk has broken all boundaries and become a lifestyle accessory in it’s own right. There are even renowned blogs dedicated to rebelling against the generic contrived aesthetic and content some feel it represents, rejecting their readers whilst labeling them as pretentious hipsters. Like it or not though, blogs such as The Kinspiracy only serves to demonstrate Kinfolk’s resounding success on a global scale that can’t be ignored. The tie with social media imagery (Search for #kinfolk on Instagram if you get a minute) posted on a minute by minute basis begs the question, of is content really fuelling the magazine’s success for the masses, or is it driven more by an aspirational lifestyle trend it has championed?

Monocle is another prime example of this approach to publishing. But where Monocle proves more interesting within a lifestyle theme, is in it’s rapid expansion into products, retail spaces and collaborations, in a relatively short space of time. Monocle has managed to create it’s own unique business model, by hitting it’s niche on a global scale. Thus creating it’s own business model, sharing similarities with models that can be seen within many niche print magazines, and applying it to a more mature, corporate business model, which has enabled it to not just be successful in terms of the scale of readership, but also become extremely financially lucrative whilst retaining it’s original integrity.

Aside from the targeted content, and niche audiences these magazines are aimed at, it’s fair to say there are other factors that contribute to their success. Quality is a theme running throughout these magazines. Quality of content, quality of print, and quality of design are all clearly embedded within the culture of each magazine’s conception. Quality of the item after all, is a key differentiator between this new breed of publishing, and rapidly dying traditional print magazines. In producing a magazine that exudes quality, the content takes on a new form. The smell, the feel, the tactility all make the magazine become more than just words and pictures. An artifact is created that offers special and sensual experience for it’s readers, that simply can not be delivered within a digital space, or on a mass produced, mass-audience level. Marshall McLuhan said it best "The medium is the message".

Read: How to start a business in an industry that doesn't exist

Contradictory to this though, there are exceptions to this rule. There are several examples of magazines that are long standing, and have embraced change whilst always holding these values within their output. Magazines such as Dazed & Confused, and ID both prove that providing you can adapt and change to react to the changing landscapes in which media is consumed, you can still create a successful offering on a more mainstream level. Their commitment to original, relevant, and timely content as well as design, could well be key factors in their long-standing success.

Whilst I am somewhat bias, it seems that a central focus and commitment to design can be attributed to much of the success of these magazines. It may come as no surprise then, that the founder of Monocle (Tyler Brûlé), also owns a graphic design studio

But what lessons can small businesses take from these examples that can be applied to their own print marketing? First and foremost is a well-targeted piece of content will always prevail over something that’s conceived to appeal to the masses. Whilst there are no concrete guarantees when it comes to quantifying a marketing campaign’s success rate, particularly in print; considered design and content will certainly go a long way. Let people know you are talking to them, don’t be scared to have a viewpoint, and above all consider the medium which you are presenting your company in.

If we look to the other end of the spectrum, we can see magazines launching daily that are committed to a purely digital immersive and interactive experience. With the rise of iPads, and the ever-increasing possibilities the web now offers; enabling a consistently slick experience across multiple platforms, the best magazines now fully utilize the benefits of the physical and digital worlds. Revisiting the example of Monocle, we can see they offer a distinct difference in content across platforms. Again, consideration for the platform and the experience it may offer users is what has kept them ahead of the game. Unlike the magazines of yesterday, who often republished regurgitated content on an annual cycle that it would seem for the most part slowly killed their print counterparts; Monocle takes the approach of showcasing the content that best fits the media, which is different, depending on the platform.

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Awareness of the platform you wish to publish on, and exploring how it can be exploited can create a real point of difference when done right. Take POST Matter as a great example of this. 10 years ago it seems unlikely this magazine could of existed on a sustainable level, but now thanks to their dedication to the iPad platform, and with a more recently improved desktop experience, they have created a sensual experience that has pushed the boundaries of what a magazine can be. Celebrating and embracing moving imagery, interactive experiences and remaining committed to a digitally driven model, has helped them gain traction and recognition.

It’s fair to say that the industry has been through a seismic shift in recent years, and those that have embraced new platforms in a considered way are the real winners here. The rise of blogs, and more importantly, the instant access to news and other similarly fast paced media, that is more consumable has for the most part destroyed many mainstream publications. Whilst some have been slow to react to this shift, the industry as a whole seems to be finally beginning to evolve around the growing need to create a platform for content that offers a truly unique experience, whether it be in print, or on a digital platform. Indeed, the forthcoming development of the print, and publishing industry as a whole looks set to be an exciting time. With every day that passes, it becomes easier to access relevant content that you want, in the way you want, via considered platforms that offer an appropriate way to experience the content.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.


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