First it was bell-bottoms, then it was basketball jerseys; are publications now adding to the evidence that, eventually, all things retro become hip once again? As new media squeezed print publications to the margins starting in 1994 when the Internet changed journalism, old media outlets began supplementing their paper-and-ink edition with online content. Today, virtually every newspaper, trade publication and magazine has an online edition. But as the market continues to change, some digital-only publications are now redefining the concept of audience engagement by supplementing their online content with old-fashioned, handheld print editions.
The Case for Print
You can’t cut a wedding announcement out of an iPad for your scrapbook – or an obituary or a profile of the results of your son’s first Little League All-Star game. These optimistic pearls of wisdom were shared by editors, publishers and owners during audience engagement meetings in newsrooms across the country as the race to go digital overwhelmed the print industry. There is a charm, character and durability in a physical, tangible newspaper or magazine. After 9/11, eBay and other online auction sites were barraged with copies of mint-condition editions of major print newspaper reports from that day. When major events happen – either nationally or in their personal lives – people want a paper to commemorate and document it.
The successful and profitable cooking and cuisine website Allrecipes launched a print magazine this month by the same name. Although myriad note-taking productivity apps, such as Evernote, have all but decimated the pocket notebook and refrigerator dry-erase board, Allrecipes realized that recipes were designed to be cut out, dog-eared, scribbled on with revisions and held in a person’s hand while cooking. With 30 million unique monthly hits and 7 millions subscribers, Allrecipes magazine picked up 400,000 subscriptions in its first two weeks!
Politico was one of the first digital-only publications to fill the void left by the decline of newspapers – thoughtful, in-depth news analysis. The Internet blasts out news in small, digestible chunks, and Politico’s format may fit very well with its new, bi-monthly supplemental print edition, which is expected to pick up about 40,000 inside-the-beltway readers.
Closer Weekly, a celebrity magazine aimed at women, is also joining the club of online editions that are taking the peculiar step of branching out into print. Closer’s strategy may be brilliant and is certainly unique. Its print edition debuted with an astounding 2 million copies in circulation. The catch: the cover price was 25 cents, which will soon rise to $3.99.
Like so many other things, journalism is coming full circle – sort of. No one thinks this trend is going to signal a major print resurgence, but it is indicative of the fact that several reputable, successful online publications think enough of print to not only not avoid it, but delve into it as part of their audience engagement strategy.