CEO at Paulsen, a marketing agency that moves rural America.
It’s true: We live in a distinctly digital age. The well-documented decline of print publications has coincided with the proliferation of digital media over the past 25 years.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Service Annual Survey, the newspaper industry’s total revenue dropped by 52% between 2002 and 2020. Periodicals, which include magazines, trade publications and journals, saw revenue fall by 40.5% over the same timeframe.
Brands have followed suit to meet customers and prospects in the digital spaces where they spend so much time. The 2022 CMO Survey revealed that digital advertising now accounts for an estimated 58% of marketing budgets. This share will continue to grow based on forecasts provided by the survey’s 273 respondents.
But even though digital marketing opportunities abound—offering expansive reach, enhanced targeting and scores of performance data—there is still a place for print (and magazines in particular) in your overall media plan. Here’s why.
Audience Engagement Is Everything
Digital tactics such as banner ads, pre-roll and streaming audio are all examples of outbound marketing designed to interrupt your audience. When done well, they can grab attention, drive action and produce results. However, these tactics will almost always stand in the way of an individual consumer and their primary intent—to learn new information, find answers, be entertained. There’s a reason native ads and sponsored content have gained momentum in recent years.
A print ad in a magazine obviously falls into the outbound marketing category, too. But the experience of paging through a magazine is markedly different from navigating the world wide web. So is the way a reader interacts with ads in the publication. It is simply more immersive. Most people who read magazines do so with far more focus and undivided attention: over a cup of coffee in the morning, on a plane ride, while waiting for an appointment. This fact, in turn, gives brands the opportunity to connect with consumers when and where they’re actually open to being engaged.
My company has found this to be especially true in our work with clients in agriculture and their efforts to connect with their target audience. Many farmers and ranchers still read print publications. In fact, the 2022 Media Channel Study conducted by Readex Research revealed that nearly two-thirds of farmers and ranchers look at print magazines and newspapers at least once a week. And when it comes to making purchase decisions, the same group of respondents identified print media as the top source of information by a three-to-one ratio.
It’s all too easy to write this data off as aberrations that are specific to the ag industry. But the truth is that magazines have remained a strong fixture in the media landscape across multiple industries over the past twenty years, according to Statista media researcher Amy Watson. In fact, new magazine publications are launched each year in hopes of connecting with a niche audience, which brings me to my next point.
Finding Your Niche Through Magazines
Magazines were one of the earliest forms of niche marketing. Want to reach grain farmers, outdoor enthusiasts, sports fans or techies? There’s a magazine for that with a built-in, well-defined audience.
Plus, a wave of hyper-niche publications has emerged in recent years, offering promising new advertising platforms.
One of the most prominent examples where I live in South Dakota is 605 Magazine, a well-designed monthly publication that profiles small business owners, tourism, food and drink, the arts and more. (Full disclosure: 605 Magazine is a publication my company has previously worked with for some of our clients.) The web presence for 605 Magazine is strong, and its owners even started a video podcast that interviews movers and shakers within its chosen industries. Digital presence aside, it’s a free magazine readily available at grocery stores, gyms and gas stations across the state that secures advertising revenue and connects brands with a rather targeted in-state audience.
The Future Of Print Media
All indicators suggest that print publications will continue to decline in circulation and audience reach over the next decade. But that doesn’t mean they will become completely obsolete. Consumers still find value in printed magazines, and successful publications both big and small have the potential to attract a core audience of like-minded individuals. Your brand would do well to pursue that audience.
With that in mind, a well-designed media plan that identifies the right magazines and publications for your industry and target audience can help your company build brand awareness, generate leads and drive sales.