Zeina Khodr

Stories sell, facts tell and print is back.

Over the last few months I’ve attended a number of conferences, summits and had numerous discussions on the future of content marketing and while Gartner’s hype cycle of marketing technologies firmly places content marketing in the trough of disillusionment, it lacks a certain focus. Content creators, publishers and marketers are constantly focused on evolving their newsrooms to meet the challenges and opportunities of the new digital reality.

As we become accustomed to operating for the speed of today and to distil thoughts and insights into soundbites and quick blog posts, I’ve resisted the urge to publish much on where digital is heading. I decided I wanted to write about the thing that struck me most, because it is close to my heart – the resurgence, power and relevance of print.

Having spent a portion of my career facing digital disruption head-on as a publisher of print mastheads as they pivoted to digital and events, and figuring out how to monetise our data while running newsrooms on the smell of an oily rag, I was heartened to hear that print mags are making a comeback.

I truly believe that print mags are important, here to stay and should be considered as part of a content marketing strategy – especially for those who truly want to cut through the noise, attract new audiences and, dare I say, be disruptive.

Because even as advertisers abandon print in favour of digital and all the murky metrics it provides, print mags are finding opportunities for reinvention and can offer brands opportunities that digital simply cannot provide.

I truly believe that print mags are important, here to stay and should be considered as part of a content marketing strategy

At Paper + Spark we are digital-first content marketers and deeply immersed in social to create cracking yarns and stories that connect with audiences, while helping brands develop their visual vocabulary that deliver business metrics. I am, however, deeply grateful for clients who still believe in the power of print and who entrust us to custom publish their print magazines, and who recognise the enormous amount of cut though a magazine delivers. They understand the sensory engagement it provides and the un-ephemeral quality of stories that lives on past a tweet, a Facebook post or a Snap.

These partnerships allow us to continue the tradition of publishing, nurture the print skills of the (almost) digital natives on the team, focus on good quality journalism, and pass on the techniques and precision required to create a print magazine, while simultaneously creating digital experiences. This, to me, is truly integrated strategy – looking beyond the digital playgrounds that seem to capture most of the time and attention of modern marketers to see the opportunities that mediums like print can offer certain clients.

One of my favourite examples is David Jones’ Jones, which is now the poster child of beautiful print mags with a digital extension featuring highlights from the print edition. Growing beyond department store catalogue status, Jones has its own editor and team, and is directly attributable to product sales. At 210,000 copies an issue, DJs easily bypasses the circulation of popular newsstand mastheads. David Jones know that once you acquire your customers you need to work bloody hard to keep them, and has produced a quality product that delivers relevant content directly to their target audience, maintaining those valuable relationships in a crowded market under threat from new entrants both domestically and overseas. For David Jones, print has been a mechanism to address a serious problem, shopper attrition, and is succeeding – and isn’t solving our client’s problems what we’re all trying to do?

While emails and eNewsletters – the digital cockroaches of marketing – still work, don’t lose sight of nurturing the customers and audiences you already have. Love your audience, hug your fans and tell great stories that inspire them to action. Be brave, consider print.

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