Digital is Putting its Best Pixel Forward & Going Print: The Audience-Empowered Print Future

February 20, 2014

Why The Pixels on the Screen Transition to Ink on Paper is Working Today?

MIC Logo I’ve always firmly believed that life without print in the magazine media industry would be unbalanced, a bit off kilter, just not right. It would be like Kojak without his sucker, a stuffy kid without Vicks VapoRub or Mr. Magazine™ sans his mustache; some things are destined to be under your nose, no matter what. And ink on paper is one of those when it comes to magazine media.

When I founded the Magazine Innovation Center (MIC) in 2009, I did it listening to the naysayers of the publishing world who were shouting at the top of their lungs: “Print is dying or already dead! Long live digital!” Luckily, I’ve never believed much in negativity or ghostly visions seen by prophets of doom; everyone needs their eyes checked occasionally.

I was determined to amplify the future of print in a digital age with MIC and I wanted, and continue to evangelize the importance and seriousness of its value to the industry. Digital without a foundation (where magazine media is concerned) will not stand. In the business of publishing it is a proven fact tangibility counts for something. Vast amounts of cyberspace are a wondrous thing, but where is the ownership, the showmanship and the membership of digital? You can buy an app, but can you really physically touch it and feel its pages, like you can with print?

The answers are obvious, as some recent maneuvers by magazine media have proven.

But if you doubt me, have a look at some of these quotes from executives and notables in the business who are finding out that print is a bondable commodity when it comes to sticking to your audience’s mind, heart and wallet.

Net-A-Porter’s Natalie Massenet on the new print launch of Porter magazine:


“We think it’s a continuation of our service,” she said of the forthcoming magazine. “It will be entirely shoppable, ads will be shoppable — we’re going to try and create something completely new there.”

“I know it sounds crazy,” Ms. Massenet said. “It’s not for the fainthearted, but we’re a multimedia company, and in the same way that you have to have a Facebook page and an Instagram account and be on mobile and have a website, you also need to be in print.”


What did she say? You also need to be in print, was it? Finally, the hyperbole of digital-only has been unmasked. In the 21st century, in this digital age, there is absolutely no reason our customers can’t have it all. There is no either/or in this scenario. To satisfy the needs and wants of our readers; we must deliver relevant content, via the relevant platform to that particular arena’s relevant audience. People are moved and touched by the tactile nature of the printed product.

Audience-empowered print is just common sense. Magazines that are using all kinds of print integration and optimization, but at the same time leaving the decision to the readers about whether they want to activate the pages or not. The audience can enjoy the magazine as is, or can use their mobile device to access the second and third screens. It is an audience-empowered print, short and simple.



Michael A. Clinton is president of marketing and also publishing director at Hearst Magazines in New York. He had this to say about the printed product that is Delish:

“It’s part of a larger Hearst strategy we call pop-up edit,” Mr. Clinton said, using the industry shorthand for editorial content. “Across our portfolio, we’re looking for different ways to inject value for the reader.”


Value for the reader… an absolute must in our day and age. People are looking for that quality and quantitative value in everything they buy.

Pitchfork goes Print


And on the new magazine’s cryptic cover — an urn, just an urn — Chris Kaskie, president of Pitchfork Media, explains:

“That’s about, well, if print is supposedly dead, let’s join them.”

Michael Renaud , Pitchfork’s creative director:

“It’s our way of saying we know a lot of people expect this to fail, but we believe in print.”

And this comes from a music commentary publication that has been Internet-only for over 15 years. Quite a powerful statement: “we believe in print.”

The Power of Print for Politico – Meeting a Need


Executive editor Jim VandeHei said the reason for doing a printed newspaper was mostly to meet a need, one they expect to grow as they expand coverage of banking and the legislature.

“Our paper is targeted at the most influential readers in the country—lawmakers, policy official, top staff, etc. This move is designed to make sure the most influential readers in New York, who intersect and interact constantly with Washington officials, get the same paper in a same timely way.”

MISC Magazine


MISC started as simply thoughts from the blog of publisher, editor-in-chief, contributor and photographer, Idris Mootee. Transferred to print, the patchwork of latent ideas on business strategy, design, innovation and technology layer as a critical exploration of creativity, collaboration and co-created meanings.

Newsweek Plans Return to Print


And of course, then you have those magazines that were loved for generations by millions, only to be jerked from the newsstands and sent to digital-only heaven, which proved to be immortal hell, and finally brought back among the land of the living print once again.

“It’s going to be a more subscription-based model, closer to what The Economist is compared to what Time magazine is,” Editor-in-Chief Jim Impoco said. “We see it as a premium product, a boutique product.”

Hope reigns supreme…


travelocitymixing_bowlYahoo_internet_liferecipe.com coverlifetimeebay mag

The idea of audience-empowered print in today’s world, if you think about it, is not only plausible; it’s happening.

Look at the following names of some very famous companies who depended solely on their websites, but then decided to go with a print counterpart that didn’t make it: Travelocity, Expedia, Yahoo Internet Life, eBay, Lifetime, Recipe.com and MixingBowl.com to name a few. All of these very popular sites tried to interact with their audiences by also offering a print product. It didn’t work.

Why? Is it because these were launched during the height of the Internet craze and almost each and every word within the print product led you straight back to the site? Is it because these magazines couldn’t possibly offer the customer anything different, unique or stimulating without their mother – dotcom – stepping into the picture ? Then you look at WebMD, The Knot.com, The Food Network, HGTV, Allrecipes and Style.com; all websites first, but now with an ink on paper companion and you find total and complete success.


Why are today’s digital-to-print entities working while yesterday’s are barely a memory? Could it have something to do with that phrase: audience-empowered magazines? The secret to the success stories of today and for the audience-empowered product is to create a publication that can stand on its own feet without the website.

WebMD created a magnificent magazine that actually contained different material than their site — material that was necessary, sufficient and relevant to their audience. The magazine depended on the brand, rather than the URL to propel it into a successful future. The same for Food Network magazine, Allrecipes, HGTV magazine and Style; while the differences between the concepts of say Recipe.com’s printed version and Allrecipes’ ink on paper product might be very similar; the executions weren’t. Once again, luring customers to the website appeared to be the only purpose of Travelocity or Ebay magazines, while Porter and Allrecipes’ printed magazine offer an experience unto itself.

Editorialist-Print-Issue-Cover-1-300x388Using the power of the brand rather than the portal is not only smart, it’s essential in today’s magazine media world. These print children can’t just be replicas of their parent sites; they must provide a necessary, sufficient and relevant experience without the need of the website or the TV network.

New print launches from Editorialist and Net-A-Porter are shining on the horizon because of the strong, powerful brands behind them. This new print — audience-empowered print — is visually and mentally exciting. Print as a foundation for digital always made sense and now going from strictly digital to adding an ink on paper component (and adding it the right way, as a separate entity that can stand strong on its own spine and cover), only makes me more certain than ever that print’s future is looking brighter and better than ever!

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni,2014.


  1. […] of social media means print will continue to decline. That doesn’t mean print will die (in fact, print is somewhat experiencing a come-back), but its importance and purpose will certainly change. Print will not be the end-all but one of […]

  2. […] of social media means print will continue to decline. That doesn’t mean print will die (in fact, print is somewhat experiencing a come-back), but its importance and purpose will certainly change. Print will not be the end-all but one of […]

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