by Karlene Lukovitz
Editor, MBR Daily Publishing & Retail News
With information flowing in from multiple platforms, today’s average consumer is exposed to 2,900 media messages per day, pays attention to 52, and remembers four. The average American adult’s attention span declined from 12 seconds in 2016 to eight seconds in 2017 (one second more than that of a gold fish).
Those were among the statistics cited by Samir Husni, in a presentation at the 2018 MBR Conference, to underscore the point that magazines and books are battling as never before for a share of consumers’ time and attention.
Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, started by refuting several myths about magazines, including the “print is dead” cliché.
He pointed out that he identified 131 launches of magazines with regular frequencies in 2017, and has counted 103 (plus 300 bookazines) already in 2018 -- on topics spanning new twists on existing categories and whole new categories (e.g., cooking with cannabis, raising urban chickens).
“Everything has a natural life cycle, so why shouldn’t magazines?,” he asked. “Magazines are folding, and launching, all the time,” but their overall number continues to grow.
The notion that digital will replace print has been shown to be false, he said. “It’s no longer print versus digital; it’s print plus digital. The two are equally important in an integrated, omnichannel brand. The audience determines which platform they use to consume the brand content at any given time.”
In fact, he declared, “print is the new ‘new media.’” Even digital and high-tech companies, including Airbnb and Google, are launching print magazines to connect in a deeper way with their customers and prospects. Further, print is the only medium that doesn’t “spy on us, track us or invade our privacy” when we’re consuming it, Husni noted.
He also offered “common sense lessons” to keep print magazines dynamic and healthy in the years ahead, including:
*Be content curators and solution providers. Print publications’ biggest strengths include the abilities to sort through the avalanche of content for consumers, and present the research along with the answers—including insights about the next trends and developments of importance to them. All of which reinforces the trust that consumers have in established print brands.
*Continually seek and analyze reader input and data. That includes monitoring social media, as well as reader database analysis. Instead of or in addition to focus groups, make it a regular practice to take a few readers to lunch, to hear their feedback and concerns in a relaxed, informal setting.
*Be opinion leaders. Use your magazine’s authority — through both social media and interactivity with print readers — to start conversations and lead public debate. Let the audience know they’re being heard, even if you don’t agree.
*Be experience creators. Just being a “content creator” is not enough. You need to create and share experiences that drive engagement.
*Be addictive. No one literally “needs” a magazine or newspaper to survive, but our products can be so relevant and compelling for that reads they feel like their lives would be incomplete without them. Make sure that each issue leaves them hungering for the next issue’s surprises and delights. (Teases and even “cliffhangers” can be great tactics.)
*Provoke emotions. Create content that stirs emotional reactions—whether that’s a laugh or smile, or a frown or tear.
*Continue to innovate in print. We often see new formats in print magazines — in ads, covers and elsewhere — driven by new technology and the our own imagination and creativity. We need to continue to challenge ourselves on this front.
*Don’t forget that success hinges most of all on being able to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” What's in it for your readers, advertisers and retailers? “It’s all about service, truth, goodwill and benefits,” Husni summed up.