By Rex Hammock
After the recent announcement of the acquisition of Time Inc. by the media company Meredith, I received the usual round of questions whenever there’s some big news about magazines: Do magazines still work?
For the past 20 years, I’ve answered the question this way: There’s the magazine business model, which gets its revenue exclusively from subscriptions and advertising, and the magazine format, which encompasses ink on print, great design and must-read content. Magazines produced to support a traditional magazine business model don’t work. Magazines that support other types of business models such as an industry-leading company or an association will be around for a long time.
Today, a print business-to-business magazine sitting on a CEO’s desk or coffee table is the most powerful form of influencer marketing that exists. It says to those who come into his or her office that the magazine and its creator are at the center of its industry. I’m a fan of all things digital and believe the iPhone is a great machine for finding answers and learning what just happened, but the iPhone doesn’t provide advertisers or sponsors the gravitas or branding power of a magazine.
I believe the magazine medium works better today than at any time over the past three decades. During these years, I’ve had the chance to help corporate and association clients launch, relaunch and grow their own magazines.
In 2009, Econsultancy, the digital marketing company, interviewed me about the future of ink on print in a digital era. Here’s what I said then and what I still believe about the future of magazines:
“I believe more media channels are better than less. I believe a multimedia platform approach is better than a one-medium approach. I believe a magazine and an array of digital properties are better than just digital properties. However, I can think of only a handful of print magazines that have gone all digital that still have the same stature in the market they serve.”
Bottomline: Information has become a commodity. But great writing, reporting, insight, design, etc.—everything that adds to making a medium a must-read experience—are still pretty rare and valuable. A proven way to dominate in a category is to be the essential magazine in your industry—the source of what people are talking about. Magazines fit into a multimedia matrix that signals the kind of content that is truly important versus merely keywords strung together.
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