The return of print / Long live print
Fergus Stoddart
This is a post by Fergus Stoddart

‘Print is the new black’, ‘The return of print’, ‘Old is new again’: these are just some of the headlines doing the rounds right now, heralding a resurgence in branded print magazines. Yes, it seems the humble custom magazine has come full circle and is once more on the radar of brands looking to make a splash in the content-marketing pool.

The recent about-face makes sense. Remember back in the day, when getting an email was like Christmas and your birthday combined? Guilty-pleasure ’90s flick You’ve Got Mail captured the vibe well: people rushing home to read an email that was still a decade off being lost in an ocean of bill reminders, invitations and the like. These days, as inboxes overflow, such excitement is reserved for that rare occasion we receive a handwritten note in the post. Likewise, we visit our favourite websites every day without fanfare, but the arrival of a polywrapped magazine in our mailbox is cause for celebration.

More and more, we’re seeing brands embrace this pillar of traditional content marketing. E-commerce sites Net-a-Porter and ASOS now produce branded print magazines, with the latter’s 450,000-strong circulation (as of the second half of 2013) making it the 17th most-read magazine in the UK. Airbnb and CNET have joined the party over the past year with the launch of quarterly publications, while one-time digital purists Allrecipes and WebMD now distribute branded print magazines to home cooks and hypochondriacs respectively. So quick have we been to forget our print-led past that the terms ‘offline magazines’ and ‘reverse publishing’ have been thrown around to describe this new generation of titles.

Closer to home, we’ve seen a reignited interest in the medium, with Edge recently taking on print projects for Crown Group and the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF), details here.

The arguments for print are plentiful. It can help brands stand out in an increasingly crowded content market; it allows digital-based companies to reach a new audience; it can command longer engagement times than the web (and is arguably better suited to certain forms of content, such as long-form journalism and personal storytelling); it broadens advertising opportunities; plus, let’s be honest, people like having something tactile to curl up on the couch with.

Most importantly, print is sometimes simply the right fit for a brand’s objectives. In an interview for magazine media association FIPP, the publisher of Airbnb’s Pineapple, Christopher Lukezic, explained the brand’s reason for turning to print: “This isn’t a magazine about homes, it’s about the connections that our community makes in the environments where they live or travel. For us, print was the perfect medium to tell these stories.”