“The Power of Print”

25 Apr

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Happily flipping through my (ever-increasing) stack of magazines on my coffee table this weekend, I couldn’t help but notice an intriguing ad in both InStyle (published by Time Inc.) and the New Yorker (published by Conde Nast):

Hmm…magazines…advertising about magazines in…magazines? In direct competition against the Internet? Fascinating.

Taking out two full page ads is no small (or inexpensive) undertaking. I investigated further and came across the official press release from March 1, 2010, that announced the “Magazines, The Power of Print” advertising campaign. The top five magazines publishers — Conde Nast, Hearst Magazines, Time Inc, Meredith Corporation and Wenner Media — have joined forced “to promote the vitality of magazines as a medium.” According to the release, the campaign will launch in the May issues (or April 5 issues for weeklies) in nearly 100 magazines and on each of the publishers’ websites. The campaign will run for seven months and reach 112 million magazine subscribers. The release lists several objectives for the campaign:

  • Target advertisers, shareholders and industry influencers
  • Seeks to reshape the broader conversation about magazines
  • Challenge misperceptions about the medium’s relevancy and longevity (emphasis mine)
  • Reinforce magazines’ important cultural role

While emphasizing these messages, the release also includes statistics about magazine readership. Most interesting to me is that magazine readership has increased 11% since Google launched 12 years ago. Yet the campaign is employing headlines such as “We Surf the Internet. We Swim in Magazines” and “Will the Internet Kill Magazines? Did Instant Kill Coffee?” The latter slogan is a deliberate play-on-words, implying that the instantaneousness of the Internet — while legitimate — does not replace the quality or importance of magazines.

Here is another version of the ad:

In this video, the five publishers discuss the ad campaign:

Clearly, the print industry feels that the need to promote itself is crucial. Ironically, the ad campaign is not print-only — there is a strong digital component (see YouTube video above) and even the press release has downloadable photos. I think the magazine titans are correct in that the industry isn’t going to completely disappear, despite their claims of journalistic integrity against the millions of bloggers (myself included — I don’t claim to be a journalist by any means, nor do I hope my opinions will be referenced as anything other than a blogger’s single opinion). However, the industry MUST CHANGE in order to keep up with the Internet and mobile devices. All of these magazines already have iPad versions in place or in preparation. So I believe this campaign isn’t as much about magazines COMPETING against the Internet as much as COMPLEMENTING it as a different medium.

Personally, I love magazines. The tangible feeling of flipping through pages cannot be duplicated (no matter how cool the iPad is). Even though I may be able to read the same articles on the web for free, I will keep my subscriptions. I read magazines while I’m drying my hair. I read magazines on the plane, at the coffee shop, waiting for the doctor, while getting mani/pedis. These are rituals that I will not give up. And I didn’t need an advertising campaign to tell me so.

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2 Responses to ““The Power of Print””

  1. Blake April 26, 2010 at 1:03 am #

    Very cool post. I couldn’t help but think of “Dwell” magazine while reading. The higher quality pages and modern-like layout really does make for a distinct experience that digital would never be able to replicate. And besides, bringing a laptop or iPad to the John is just, well, weird. (Not that I’ve tried)

  2. Lloyd April 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    I concur with your post and with Blake’s comments (share his love for “Dwell” too). However, having said that… the digital edition of “The New Yorker” is very cool (even on my boring iMac, MacBook Pro and iPhone). I understand (appreciate and applaud) the ritual, but I think the print edition’s days are numbered. Declining revenues aren’t keeping pace with the costs of production.

    We’d better learn how to bring that iPad to the John.

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