Over and over again we hear that print, a medium that has existed since the 1400s, is dead. Technology has indeed disrupted the publishing biz, and for many of us, our daily lives as either content creators or consumers.

But with that being said, some of our breakthrough technologies are even falling woe to the status quo of society’s consumption habits. Before denouncing the end of an era, we’re here to share that what we’re actually seeing is a rethinking of the medium as it finds its place in the digital world.

The viable future of the publication industry is housed under our three-pronged mantra: re-strategize, restructure and reinvigorate.

Print Isn’t Dead

The most proactive step publishers, marketers, and advertisers can take in surviving the print medium is to educate others. When your colleagues, bosses, boards and decision makers ask why there is still power in print, you can tell them:

  • Survival rates of new magazines are on the up. More magazines are remaining in business after 10 years of publishing despite all the news of doom and gloom.
  • From 2012 to 2014, the total magazine audience grew from five million readers to a total of more than 215 million readers.
  • Last year, every major publisher—Hearst, Conde Nast, Time Inc. and Rodale—published a new print magazine.
  • Experimentation is out there! These publishers are saying, “I can’t change my business model, but I can produce something new—and change more.”
  • Marie Claire and Elle changed its printing specs to a bigger European size while Vogue is testing out the new, enlarged format as well.

These days, no one should be saying, “Print is dead.” Instead, we should be saying, “Print is changing.” Keeping your print product viable is a journey, not a destination.

One of the reasons why print publications are on the up is because they serve as a sensory experience that you can’t find duplicated in digital replicas. The touch of the paper stock, the authenticity of images or even the smell—fresh off the printing press or doused in sultry perfume samples—creates both tactile and visual sensations. Print products should not only serve as mediums of content, but as beautiful artifacts. Think of a box of old family recipes, clippings from historic milestones or magazines bulked with pages dog-eared for inspiration—we save these printed pieces because we can both feel and develop an emotional association with them. This creates opportunities for brands to connect with their audiences on this emotional level by allowing them to engage at their own pace as well as presenting more opportunities to be picked up beyond the initial reader—coffee tables, office lobbies and supermarkets.

According to Bauer Media, magazine readers see 90 percent of all pages in an issue and will usually pick up a copy of a magazine more than once per day across multiple days. Interestingly enough, print magazines actually accumulate more readers the further out from the date of publication with a peak at around 10 weeks, as stated by The Association of Magazine Media.

Print is Evolving

A key part of re-strategizing your print pieces is to understand your audience. Millennials are the largest growing segment of print readers. According to the Association of Magazine Publishing, 95 percent of adults under 25 years old are reading magazines—nine per month, in fact. At the same time, a large part of the digital revolution is driven by the millennial demographic. However, while most web users spend fewer than 15 seconds on a web page, these magazine readers tend to dedicate more than 50 minutes of reader attention per issue on average—that’s more than 200 times longer than the average web page!

Yes, this is the digital age, but if you want your publishing strategy to be truly effective, you must think in a multi-channel publishing strategy mindset. Leveraging reader surveys is critical to understanding your readers’ wants and interests. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What kind of content do they want to consume in print instead of digital?
  • How long do your readers spend with your print publication?
  • What do you readers find most valuable about your publication?
  • Do your readers hold onto your publication as a resource to return to?

Your print strategy is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about understanding the right mix of content for your audience. Not doing thorough reader surveys in addition to other primary research will directly reflect the performance of the magazine.

“A multi-channel approach that leverages the unique benefits of paper with the convenience and accessibility of digital will perform best.” –Forbes

The Power of Print Strategy

Nowadays, we are on digital overload from constantly being plugged into technology. Magazines allow readers to disconnect and discover through print. And even though print circulations are down, in many cases this means that a magazine’s readership has been culled to only the most engaged and loyal readers.

Whether it be discovering troves of valuable content or an interesting advertisement, the ROI for print publications are driven by the emotional connection a reader has with the magazine. When it comes to calculating ROI for your print publication, you have to first change the conversation. Instead of “How much money do we make per dollar invested?” think, “How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact relative to our resources?”

Long story short, print is forever. Unlike a web-based article or blog post, once a magazine is printed, the word is final. Print comes with the assertion that its information is valuable and credible. While print delivery doesn’t provide the instant gratification for breaking news like online media, it gives publishers the opportunity to think about how they can restructure their content in a new, evergreen and fresh way.

Make Your Publication Stand Out with Design

Publishers invest so much effort in developing sticky content that it is equally important to have your design match that same level of effort. How can you set your print publication apart from competitors with its paper stock, typefaces, photography and other design elements? 

Because design is a highly influential force it is important to discuss these questions before embarking on any design or redesign projects:

  • Why do your readers read the publication? Part of their business day, on the run, for pleasure or general inspiration?
  • What other publications are your readers consuming? What can you learn from these? Remember, you are competing for time against these publications.
  • Do you have a cover strategy, and if so, what is it? How does each cover meet these expectations?
Download our “Is It Time for a Publication Redesign?” guide for key insights into how you can detect if it’s time for a publication redesign. You’ll learn

  • Ways to Tell if Your Publication Needs a Facelift
  • Redesign Process Decision: In-House vs. Outside Contractor
  • 3 Key Areas to Focus on for a Successful Publication Redesign

Download Publication Guide

Your publication is an extension of your brand. It’s up to you to make it a positive reflection of your organization’s values and reader benefits. In this case, your design strategy goes against the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Your readers do judge and will decide to select your magazine over another based off of a first impression. Don’t give readers the opportunity to turn away.

How Can You Re-strategize, Restructure & Reinvigorate What You’ve Been Doing in a New Way?

“The web is where we go to get answers, but print is where we go to ask questions.” –Content Marketing Institute

The best defense to combatting the stigma that “print is dead” is with a good offense. Print has strengths and weaknesses so it’s important to understand those weaknesses but lead with the strengths. If you think print is dead, it will be. But if you recognize its viability and exploit it, it will continue to stay vital to your brand and its readers.


This blog post is a recap of an Association Media & Publishing Lunch & Learn session, presented by Amanda Jennison, marketing director at Bates Creative, Danielle Moore, marketing assistant at Bates Creative, and Erin Pressley, VP Publishing, NACS Media Group.