Successful subscription publications usually have a life cycle that resembles a flattened out bell curve. They start off growing, reach a comfortable plateau, then decline — mostly because markets and interests change.
The decline can be postponed by frequent re-imagination and re-targeting. But without new titles, or revised old titles, the trajectory is pretty straight forward. Grow or decline.
David Carey mentions that in a very interesting interview with Mr. Magazine.
We believe that if you don’t grow; it’s not a question of just standing still, you actually fall behind. And so we are happy to keep pushing ahead with the growth agenda ….
Carey and Michael Clinton — two successful executives from Hearst — note that they are still heavily into print. Perhaps they've plugged their ears against the siren song of the digital disruption chorus. Says Clinton …
We like to say that we’ve been through every media revolution possible. When the telephone was born it was going to displace magazines. When the radio was born it was going to displace magazines. When the television was born it was going to displace magazines. (Laughs) So, we’ve been through every media revolution imaginable ….
Right. The "it's different this time" stuff gets old.
And speaking of print, Ryan Dohrn, the founder and CEO of Brain Swell Media, and publisher of Sales Training World, sent some great comments inspired by last week's Krehbiel Report. If you don't recall, the subject was how to make print advertising more relevant in the digital age.
1. It is imperative that sales people are trained in today's language to sell print. Most are using old school techniques taught for generations. These outdated approaches are killing the sale. One of the biggest sales techniques to master is the understanding that print advertising drives the "Familiarity Factor." People are more likely to click on products when then are familiar with the product or brand. Thus, print boost ROI on digital advertising.
2. Do not let your advertisers force you to become a direct response magazine. Most advertisers are wanting to run a direct response ad in your magazine when they do not offer a product that is direct response by nature. For example, an advertiser is running an ad to come in this week and save 10% on a sofa. That sofa costs $3500. The sofa is not a direct response product. Yet the ad design is 100% focused on DR. A $3500 purchase requires social influence, price comparison and personal validation. Print does all of these things! Your sales team needs to be trained to point this out in vibrant way to your advertisers.
3. Unique ad content drives ROI metrics. Ad agencies are notorious for running the same ad in 10 magazines. This is a huge mistake. The ad content needs to be very unique and very special. This idea needs to carry over to the magazines website and all the eNewsletters, etc that the advertiser has bought from you as a Publisher.
4. Training is the key. Sure, that is my business, I get it. But, this is the truth. Millennial account executives often kill old media sales dogs because they are speaking the sales language of today's media buyers. Print is not dead. Sellers are just irrelevant in how they communicate how to use print to drive ROI.
The bottom line, to me, is that we have to get over this either/or thinking. It's not print or digital, or print vs. digital. The future is very clearly print and digital, working together.
On a related note, James Wildman is trying to coin a new word: printism.
The preconceived opinion not based on reason or actual experience of the print medium; bias, partiality, unreasoned dislike, hostility or antagonism towards, or discrimination against, print – accelerated by those closest to it being too afraid to properly defend it for fear of being tarred with the career-stunting ‘dinosaur’ label.
I'm mostly with you, James, especially the "not based on reason or actual experience" part. But I'm not sure "printism" is going to stick. It certainly won't jump up there with racism and sexism. I think you're better off slipping a notch down the scale and going the "phobia" route. E.g., "he's a printaphobe."