Print’s place in the digital age
Despite the rise of online news and media outlets, print is still an important medium for brands and businesses
Two weeks ago, Wavelength Media published the 252nd issue of Wavelength, Europe’s oldest surfing magazine. Showcasing photography from everywhere, from Mauritania to the Hebrides, content varying from campfire-friendly recipes to first-hand interviews, and a winter wetsuit guide that saw our studio converted into an Arctic landscape (complete with icebergs) for a day, the print edition is the result of months of hard work from our team in Cornwall.
Meanwhile, in London, former Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman also published something. In her debut column for online fashion news and analysis site Business of Fashion, Shulman made a strong case for the importance of print in today’s data-driven world. In her words, magazines “add an incalculable kudos to all kinds of businesses”, a point she reinforced with the example of digital gurus Airbnb choosing to partner with publishing giant Hearst on a new print magazine.
“Magazines, due to their carefully edited content, are specific and generally speak to the converted. They create worlds that appeal to their readers and their advertisers and over time, they have gained a trust and authority”.
Ironically, Shulman chose to publish her article not just online, but on a fashion news site that grew out of its founder’s blog (as opposed to in Business of Fashion’s print magazine of which there have only been ten editions since 2013), begging the question: exactly what sort of “kudos” does print lend a brand?
Shulman argues that magazines are“image-defining accessories,” that “endow the buyer with membership of a certain tribe”, and she’s right. Just ask yourself what magazines you would put in your office reception. Are you choosing between The Economist and The Financial Times, or weighing up the comparative merits of Hello and OK? At Wavelength Media, unsurprisingly, it’s Wavelength. Why? Because not only does the magazine promote the best of our creative work, but it also highlights our unique link to the surfing industry. It identifies us with “our tribe”.
However, the mere ten editions of Business of Fashion in print also evince the level of kudos a print magazine can lend. So do the two long rows of Wavelength magazines in the WLMedia office, or, for that matter, the stacks of old copies of The New Yorker that I still have at home, and refuse to throw out. To quote Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s answer when asked about his motivation for starting the imaginatively named Airbnbmag, print “isn’t ephemeral”.
It’s this un-ephemerality that makes print a significant medium compared to online news sources, websites and social media. How many times have you wasted half an hour trying to find an old photo or post on a friend’s Facebook or Instagram feed? Or clicking around endlessly to find something on a website when it doesn’t come up in the search results? And heaven forbid you need to track down a tweet from today, five years ago.
The average human scrolls through 300ft of mobile content alone, every day- the height of the Statue of Liberty.
At AdWeek NYC last week, Facebook Global Creative Director Andrew Keller announced that the average human scrolls through 300ft of mobile content alone, every day- the height of the Statue of Liberty- as digital content continuously changes and updates itself around them. In print, on the other hand, that image or article you’re looking for will always stay in the same place, on the same page.
Print is permanent, and for brands, the implications this permanence can have certainly shouldn’t be screwed up and lobbed overarm into the nearest “paper-only” recycling bin. Permanence makes your brand legitimate and legitimacy, in turn, makes the face of your brand more consumer-friendly.
Consider Airbnb, a company that for all its 3,000,000 lodging listings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries has no physical offline footprint. Airbnbmag will feature content curated by their enormous amount of data (e.g features on destinations frequently searched for by users) in a physically tangible format. Rather than scrolling on phones or laptops, users will be able to interact with a physical manifestation of the brand and, somewhat surreally, actually turn over pages.
For Business of Fashion, on the other hand, while its print edition adds legitimacy to the otherwise online publication, its infrequency adds a heightened sense of luxury to its brand. By having fewer editions, Business of Fashion is better able to embody the luxury mantra of “quality not quantity”.
This apparently “random” printing schedule makes each of the ten magazines it’s published since 2013 a collector’s item in itself, solely as a result of their rarity. This is a model that other, traditionally “print-first” magazines are starting to follow. Just last week, Glamour announced a new “mobile-first, social-first” strategy that will see them stop their monthly editions and instead produce a “collectible, glossy” issue twice a year. Again, the word “collectible”- with its connotations of quality, value and luxury- is no accident.
For Wavelength, and for our clients, we’ve applied this same thinking to all of our print work. We know that the medium has a vital role to play in telling a brand story and documenting a moment in a brand’s history. Wavelength is a quarterly, quality, creative exploration of surfing from around the world, made to be as verbally and visually exciting as we can make it.
But we haven’t stopped there. Using the expertise we’ve built up from putting Wavelength together four times a year, we also encourage our clients to explore the world of print and to put their story down on paper.
If you’d like to find out more, get in touch.