Saturday, December 11, 2010

Digital Lessons: Magazine Brands

We may assume that magazines will be an obvious digital winner and that the physical format has a very limited life, but perhaps we need to think again.

Magazines are built on tight brands. They focus on their community and combine editorial, articles and advertising in a brand focused way which is complimentary for all parties. Name any of the major magazine brands and we can all identify their space, community, demographic and what adverts to expect within them.

To some readers magazines are a ‘treat’, to others they are an authoritative must have. Some believe that the tactile charm and visual indulgence of the print magazine is something that will continue to resonate irrespective of the digital offer. To others the print is living on borrowed time. But is there a middle ground that recognises that print is print and digital is digital and both are part of a brand communication programme and in fact are complimentary.

The magazine world has moved from chasing the scoop to one where news becomes more of a commodity. It’s becoming more about understanding and presenting the commentary, the in depth angle in a manner that is informative and resonates with its audience. They must assume that they will not have it first in print and therefore writing an in-depth analysis and understanding must bring something extra. Magazine journalists now have to also think which platform is best for each angle of the story. A monthly print magazine may be complimented by a website which is updated every day, by a mobile app and also by events. It’s about brand management, building a format neutral brand that transcends media and not fixed to one format only. It is also about aligning the right advertising that compliments the content and focus of the reader. It is about a totally wired brand.
It isn’t about the latest technology. As long as brands deliver reliable, entertaining and well edited information it doesn't matter what delivers it. Magazine with high-quality editorial and production values and appropriate and quality photography and illustrations and the right advertising will always deliver consumer value.

Print advertising is an essential ingredient of the brand offer. Readers, buy titles because they want adverts that relate to the focus of the brand. If you advertise your cars in a car magazine you can be certain that one of the reasons people will buy the magazine is because they want to find, or are receptive to having a new car. The brand will be focused on cars. The advertiser are buying into the trust between magazine and reader. The best magazines know what their brands stand for and deliver the readers.

Print, often is viewed by many as a competitor to digital platforms but in media such as magazines it can be more often complementary.

Looking at other media sectors demonstrates that there is often not one shoe that fits all. Even within the book publishing market there is not one but several distinct sectors that face different digital challenges, may move at different speeds and even in different directions. We can look at others but must understand the differences in order to learn the appropriate lessons.

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