Positivity and publishing have not exactly been synonymous in recent times.
This week’s release of magazine circulation figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) will be another painful experience for many publishers.
The closure of once-mighty FHM or, more recently, the cost-cutting plans announced at The Guardian have provided doom-mongers and digital evangelists with plenty of ammunition for the “print is dead” narrative.
It would be foolhardy to deny that the business of selling paper and ink to consumers is increasingly hostile. FHM’s demise typifies the need for evolution. Strong brands are not impervious to damage.
But, if you allow yourself to look past the pessimism there is much to be excited about in this sector.
After all, when you think about it, newspaper and magazine publishers own brands that are the embodiment of vast swathes of current brand thinking.
Publisher brands are purposeful. They embody and exhibit a specific and unique worldview, something many advertisers would crave.
They absolutely understand why they exist, whom they exist to service and how to communicate with their audiences in a credible and valuable way. Publisher brands are expert in content marketing, existing across multiple channels and touch points. Arguably they invented it. Where do you think agencies stole the increasingly ubiquitous idea of a “newsroom”?
Publishers create culture, just like we tell our clients they should.
From their involvement in reporting (and shaping) the general election last year to those pictures of Kim Kardashian “breaking” the Internet, publishers not only report on, but also fundamentally shape the cultural fabric of society. They create the fuel for social networks – the valuable stuff we love to share, the stuff that creates value for the Twitters and Facebooks of this world.
However, decisive action is required because publishing’s enduring cultural and curatorial value alone will not help change the fortunes of this sector.
More should be asked of the ABC report. While it has integrated digital editions into its numbers, the twice-yearly reports in February and August fail to paint a true picture of the reach and impact these magazine brands offer across all their touchpoints. There are similar flaws with ABC’s newspaper reports.
Audiences don’t consume media channels. They consume media brands – and we must start recognizing that more clearly.
There must also be continued innovation and experimentation at the supply side too, with more platforms and more routes to market.
Trinity Mirror’s chief revenue officer, James Wildman, wrote an article about “printism” in Campaign last year in which he rightly accused media agencies and advertisers of an irrational prejudice against the printed medium.
From our side, as a media agency, we feel we can and should do more to help publishers:
–By being more challenging.
–By being excited about ideas, not just demanding value.
–By being a partner and not pessimistic.
–By being outcome-focused, not fashion-conscious.
Publishers have long demonstrated effectiveness for advertisers in ways that many newer forms of media have not.
For clients looking to rub shoulders with premium content or other premium advertisers, or wanting to establish a deeper and more meaningful relationship with their audiences, publishers continue to provide a brilliant route to achieving these aims.
But too often that is not the narrative we hear from many in the ad industry. It’s up to advertisers and agencies, as well as media owners, to focus on the positives of publishing.
Tom Darlington is a Head of Planning at Goodstuff.
First published on Campaign.