Jim Impoco, the new editor-in-chief of Newsweek, recently told The New York Times that the publication plans to resume printing weekly in 2014. According to Impoco, Newsweek will scrap an advertising focused digital model in favor of looking to subscriptions, online or off, for more revenue. The revival may flop, but coming from an online owner with a legacy brand, the move points up how relevant print can still be to both media and marketers—if done right.
Why might brands consider keeping print, or adding it to their marketing mix? Three-quarters of small businesses think their optimal marketing mix includes print, notes Xerox in a recent article. Print mail gets four times the open rate of email and a Print in the Mix survey had more than half of respondents labeling printed materials as · most trustworthy.”
Need more evidence of print’s continued relevance? Consumers who find out about products and services in print ad then go online to purchase spend around 13 percent more than those who don’t (QR codes and augmented reality programs are a great way to send consumers from print catalogs to websites, social media).
Then there’s the fact that the Web is saturated with branded content, sponsored content and plain old borrowed…make that “curated”…content. (Though there’s still plenty of room for fresh, original, timely content.”
The Lesson for Brands
In that light, Newsweek’s decision to re-launch in print is the same as any brand’s looking to diversify the channels through which it reaches an audience. You go where your readers and viewers are. The lesson: While it’s important for brands to dedicate resources to digital and mobile marketing because consumers are using tablets and smartphones more and more, companies shouldn’t ignore legacy media entirely. Figuring out that mix, and allocating the resources appropriately, is a big challenge, even for full-time publishers like Newsweek.
What about Newsweek’s chances of success: how likely is it that readers will flock back to a name they know in a format they’re migrating away from? Media experts we talked to were glum.
“Bringing Newsweek back from the dead in a way that is substantive enough to get a substantial paid audience is daunting,” says Rick Edmonds, media business analyst for The Poynter Institute. “As you probably know, newsstand sales for magazines—especially in airports—have fallen by a lot since most people now bring electronic reading/viewing material with them on board.”
And Newsweek already tried the subscriber strategy once, Edmonds points out, under former editor Jon Meacham. “That’s a lot easier said than done.”
Aiming for 100,000 Subscribers
Allan Wolper, senior professor in the Rutgers-Newark Journalism Program and a columnist for Editor & Publisher magazine, says the publishing industry will be watching closely how Newsweek’s new business model unfolds.
“Life on the newsstands is not fun anymore,” says Wolper. “But, hey, there have been scattered, albeit anecdotal reports, that folks like to actually hold paper in their hands. That has been proven to some extent by the incredible success of weekly newspapers.”
According to Impoco, Newsweek subscription prices will go up, and the cost to print the magazine will be less than under the previous ownership. He’s aiming to secure 100,000 subscribers during the first year of the revived print edition.
Time will tell if the new Newsweek model will work, but, for brands, many say, it’s important to have a mix of digital and traditional marketing efforts in your toolbox.