Media intelligence brought to you by

The power of print: How publishers are adapting in a digital world

Although you might be reading these very words in a printed magazine, in today’s digital age, it could be easy to assume print media is taking a back seat. However, the latest circulation and readership audits report strong audience numbers, showing that print is far from dead. Publishers tell us that they are positioning themselves to deliver better branded content that goes beyond paper and ink, but are media buyers and marketers seeing this value?

Amidst the endless scroll of digital news feeds, there is a growing number of consumers embracing the tactile experience of holding a physical publication in their hands. The pandemic has only accelerated this trend, with many people seeking to disconnect and retain information.

Despite many sounding print’s death knell for a while now, the numbers tell a different story with Roy Morgan’s readership results finding that in 2022 2.8 million Kiwis still read newspapers while nearly 1.7 million continue to read magazines.

It also showed that five out of the top 10 newspapers in New Zealand grew their total cross-platform audience in the year to June 2022.

Two widely read magazines published by SCG also grew their cross-platform audience during this period with Habitat increasing by 44,000 to 157,000 and dish growing by 32,000 to 179,000. 

“Although we are now emerging from the pandemic after more than two years, the resulting changes to lifestyles and habits, including how we read newspapers and magazines, are set to continue to impact the industry going forward,” says Michele Levine, Chief Executive Officer, Roy Morgan.

With many brands now offering a seamless multi-platform experience, print is no longer a standalone product, but rather an integral part of a larger media ecosystem and this stretches beyond magazines and newspapers. 

Through strategy work, digital, magazine and print advertising company Are Media recognised that although magazines are strong on the inspiration and information end of the funnel, there is untapped potential and opportunity to offer conversions too.

“[Magazines have] created trends, demand and fashions and all sorts of things for a number of different categories, but traditionally haven’t operated in the conversion or transactional end of the funnel,” says Are Media’s GM Stuart Dick.

To address this, the publishing company has drawn from successful overseas models, transforming themselves into ‘content commerce’ businesses. This is done by integrating shoppable links, e-commerce platforms and taking advantage of customers transactions. Not just creating the demand, but converting the demand as well.

Stuart Dick.

“We think of the magazine brands as a sort of spoke and wheel approach. The core product is always the print title, that’s the statement piece, that’s the jewel in the crown, of a curated content for the week or the month depending on the title,” he adds. 

“Magazines have always have been really strong in building brands for clients. By advertising in a magazine, a brand is leveraging the trust, credibility and integrity that magazine brand has. It is a real statement to have your brand positioned on an inside front cover in a magazine, and it makes the audience feel a certain way, which is the whole point of advertising – getting an emotive response.”

Magazines and print media also offer a depth of engagement with readers which Stuart says is “hard to match in any other media channel”.

“We know that magazines often rank at the top or very close to the top in terms of metrics like trust and quality of attention. It’s not just good enough to get somebody’s attention. You can do that by being loud and brash on any channel, but the quality of that attention is what matters. The fact that people are spending so much time, and enjoying the experience of reading a magazine, lends itself to telling stories for advertisers as well.”

SCG’s Editorial Director and dish Editor Sarah Tuck, says print is at the forefront of the brand’s strategy, as having a physical product is a key part of the magazine experience – and practical for one featuring recipes.

“Readers enjoy that tactile experience of turning the pages of a cook book and looking at the beautiful pictures and it’s the same with the magazine. From a branding perspective, it makes it more visible. There it is in front of them at every supermarket and every bookshop.”

To complement the print magazine, dish also hosts events such as tasting panels for beer, wines and spirits featured in the magazine and events where people can taste the winning products, which Sarah says is a “lovely way of connecting the content [of the magazine] to an event”. The magazine also runs Dine with Dish events which are hosted at restaurants and Sarah has a monthly spot on Breakfast television and on occasion appears on Seven Sharp.

It’s this visibility and credibility that plays into the effectiveness of the dish brand she adds. “By fronting up, being visible on things like Breakfast and Seven Sharp, people get to know me and trust the brand, and that’s a level of trust that advertisers get to take advantage of.”

Dish also works with advertisers to create bespoke content for brands such as high-end domestic appliances and commercial equipment brand Miele, which “works for both the advertisers and for the magazine because it means that we can create content that works seamlessly with the rest of what we’re doing, and it looks and feels like native content,” Sarah adds.

“We’ve got such a great handle on who’s buying the magazine and who’s engaging with our content that we’ve established this relationship, so it means that we can really tailor what we deliver to them.”

Over the last 12 months, dish has sold more than twice as many magazines in Countdown and Foodstuffs than its closest competitor.

Print is also an essential part of Stuff’s strategy, alongside digital content, says Stuff’s Head of Partner Strategy Katrina Reinsfield.

“They’re a really powerful tool for advertisers to connect with valuable audiences. Our readers love the indulgence of receiving a magazine in the mail, or sitting down on the weekend [to read one]. They devour their weekend paper in that lean-back environment.”

Advertisers too are realising that magazines are a powerful tool to connect with a valuable audience.

An example of this is Stuff’s recent launch of The House of Wellness title. This magazine is a partnership between Stuff and Chemist Warehouse that speaks to health and well-being. 

This collaboration felt like a natural fit for the two businesses, Katrina says and together they have created “a product that has strong editorial value and purpose” that is inserted into almost 400,000 newspapers across the country with content extended onto as well as in Chemist Warehouse stores across the country.

Print media’s renewed popularity is not just about nostalgia or a desire for something different. An integrated channel approach for brand content combined with finding new ways to engage readers through innovative design and technology, offers a seamless multi-platform experience, creating a deeper, more immersive experience that can’t be replicated on a screen. It also creates a ‘brand-safe’ environment for advertisers.

“It does allow for the most amplification and reach with our audiences within that brand-safe environment,” says Katrina.

“Our audiences are really interesting. They read our content when they get up in the morning on their mobile. By noon, they’re on desktop, and at night they are reading that lean-back content. 

“We have multiple touch points for brand content to be consumed. That lean-back printed content is read differently to our online, which can be more snack-able. And then, print is evolving beyond the page, which is hugely exciting.

“Publishers like us are innovating online, on mobile, we’re moving into digital audio or video, events, and on the printed page.”

Events are becoming increasingly popular as ways for publishers to maximise their reach and add value
for advertisers.

New Zealand House & Garden has been the number one monthly magazine for many years and the brand also hosts sold-out tour events. “It’s a really, really strong ecosystem which our advertising partners can be part of,” says Katrina. 

Physical leaflets and letterbox marketing are also providing advertisers with unique cut-through in an increasingly digital world.

Data driven marketing agency REACH specialises in online and offline marketing including targeted letterbox campaigns based off data science. CEO Struan Abernethy says something that often gets overlooked when marketers consider including print as a channel in their stack, is that their audiences spend time in both the physical and virtual world. While that might seem obvious, Struan says, marketing needs to match how customers are behaving.

“It’s not print versus digital, it’s the combination of both that will get you the best results,” he stresses.

As for the future of this legacy channel, Struan says over the last two years, letterbox has been growing in New Zealand, most likely because more people are working from home. The letterbox has also evolved from being the place where people received all their bills, to now becoming a place where people find the items they have ordered online.

“The letterbox is really becoming more a surprise and delight channel,” he says. “That’s consistent globally. People are talking about how when they go to the letterbox it’s now exciting to see what’s in there, whether it’s a parcel delivery, an offer or marketing material. It’s more a surprise communication channel because of the fact that everything’s gone digital from a mail perspective.”

He also adds that once a tangible piece of media makes it inside from the letterbox, it can remain in a home for days afterwards – giving it more of a chance to be remembered by the receiver than a digital ad that is quickly scrolled past.

Struan Abernethy.

A common misconception about print advertising is that there is a lack of measurement Struan says. As the brains behind the Out of Home industry’s measurement tool Calibre, REACH is also launching an audience measurement tool for letterbox marketing material later this year.

This is done by looking into foot traffic if it’s marketing material for a business with a physical location, or website visits as well as SEO search results. “That measurement piece is something that is getting smarter all the time around letterbox,” Struan says. “If customers want to work with us and our data science team, we can certainly show the effectiveness.”

Industry association The Real Media Collective supports all physical media channels and works with advertisers, media buyers, brands, retailers to share with them how each channel is working, where they are successful and how to optimise investment.

The Collective’s CEO Kellie Northwood says there is a strong marriage between digital and print when optimising marketing.

Kellie Northwood.

“The strengths of print don’t compete with the strengths of digital. And likewise, the strengths of digital don’t compete with the strengths
of print. They actually work in a beautiful partnership.”

Trust is a key part of print’s strength, Kellie says, and lends itself well to brand equity relationships as digital trust erodes more significantly in recent years.

“The other thing we’re noticing, particularly across sales acquisition with the letterbox is ‘usefulness’. That’s a common word coming out of focus groups. Print is deemed more useful.”

Kellie believes marketers can sometimes get too caught up in the channel-by-channel comparison.

“We have to understand that consumers are so fluid in their engagement with channels. It’s subconscious fluidity. They don’t think, ‘Oh, I only read catalogues,’ or, ‘I only watch television ads. As consumers, we absorb media from the minute we wake up till the minute we go to sleep every day in all different channels.

“Ignoring or doing one or the other online or offline, from a brand or marketer’s position, is a grave mistake because you are potentially removing yourself along that consumer’s path throughout that day, and losing millions of eyeballs in that process.”

From a media agency’s perspective, print is one of many tools in the media toolbox says OMD’s CEO Nigel Douglas and can be used strategically to ensure an effective reach.

“It has strengths with older audiences, regional reach, more detailed messages and retail. These are the areas where we’re more likely to recommend print.

“We always consider campaign objectives, audience, cost and so on before we put something on schedule. We don’t really pitch anything in a big way unless it can deliver all of these things all of the time, which no one medium can.”

As with all media channels, agencies are careful to consider all the campaign variables before deciding which medium is fit for purpose he says.

Whether it’s through magazines, or newspapers, events or e-commerce, publishing brands offer a uniquely trusted platform for advertisers to craft compelling messages that leave a lasting impression. 

This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

Avatar photo

About Bernadette Basagre

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *