Although the narratives of ad decline and circulation struggles signalling the end times for print are well known, the reality is that for many publishers, print is still a significant proportion, if not the most important profit stream for the business. It also continues to be a valuable way of building relationships with readers.
That’s not to say publishers should keep plugging away with the same format. At the recent Making Publishing Pay conference in London, delegates heard three case studies from publishers who rethought the way they did print, and are now reaping the rewards.
Here are some learnings from Positive News, TTG Media and Future plc for publishers looking to rethink the way they do their own print magazines.
Print is the key to an engaged community of support for Positive News
Sean Dagan Wood of Positive News was the first up to tell the story of the publication’s evolution from a freely-distributed newspaper to a quarterly print magazine, with the publisher itself being co-owned by 1,500 people after a unique crowdfunding campaign.
For Positive News, the print magazine is the flagship product. “It’s beautifully designed, it’s printed on high quality paper, and it’s a certified carbon neutral publication,” explained Wood. The stories are written through the lens of ‘constructive journalism’; rigorous reporting but focused on progress and the solutions to problems, for example zero-waste shops across the UK, or people trying to have a positive impact through work and activities.
Positive News’ print reinvention came in 2016, after a 30 day #ownthemedia crowdfunding campaign. “At the same time as raising the capital we needed to grow, we were creating a more democratic ownership structure,” said Wood about the campaign. “It meant that we’re duty bound to serve our readers, and because everyone has an equal vote, we can’t be skewed by the agenda of any one person.”
With the £260,000 they raised from 1,500 readers, the team got to work refreshing the branding and relaunching the print newspaper as a magazine.
“In terms of moving from a free newspaper to a quarterly magazine that retails, our strategy for that was to make the news beautiful,” said Wood, talking about the thinking around the redesign. “We knew that we had strong values that our readers connected with…so in print we wanted something that would bring that out in terms of the reading experience, something that our subscribers could connect with.”
The print magazine currently has a circulation of 15,000 with help from stores like WH Smiths and Sainsbury’s, as well as a large number of independent stores. They also have 6,500 individual subscribers to the magazine; a number that may be small, but which is growing fast.