What an interesting dilemma it was for me moving into publishing almost three years ago. The glossy was HERO and digital was a very, very bad word indeed. The environment was not dissimilar to the ad industry - and the old adage of "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" reared its ugly head - again!
But I was excited that, for first time, I could really get to grips with CONTENT. In advertising that's the missing, quintessential link. The beauty of publishing is we, as publishers, are sitting with copious amounts of content, all of which people really want to read (and yes "engage" with).
Historical, time-stamped journey
In order to understand where I am headed here, let me contextualise my thinking by way of illustrating a historical, time-stamped journey of sorts:
The world's first magazine, Erbauliche Monaths-Unterredungen (Edifying Monthly Discussions) was published in Germany in 1663. I am not sure how riveting - but first none the less!
The oldest consumer magazine still in print, The Scots Magazine, is apparently the world's best-selling Scottish-interest publication and has been around since 1739. It has a circulation of 28 357 with over 100 000 readers monthly, a website, iOS apps, 960 Facebook fans and 3007 Twitter followers - for a rather niche market, that's not bad!
In 1843The Economist began examining news, politics, business, science and the arts. Currently, it prints 1 474 803 weekly, has 6 824 623 traffic globally and are accessed by 650 000 unique devices via iOS and Android monthly. It also has 1 306 289 Facebook fans and 2 695 187 followers on Twitter. In 1946, it started the Economist Intelligence Unit, a service for clients to tap into their research and audience. More recently, it added a content marketing arm and acquired a content-focused PR shop, essentially to act more like agencies in helping brands strategise, create and distribute branded content.
The Atlantic Monthly was founded in 1857 by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and others. Nowadays, it attracts its print, digital, live, and mobile audience with breakthrough insights into the worlds of politics, business, technology, culture, and the arts. It prints 10 issues a year (1,16 million readers a month), was voted one of the 50 best websites by Time in 2012 (5 million users per month), has 3,2 million mobile users each month and full digital mag versions available on Kindle, Nook and Google Newsstand. Bookmark them if you haven't already.
In 1899, National Geographic first appeared. Today, it "strives to inspire, educate, and empower the audience by delivering world-class editorial content, using state-of-the-art multi-media tools, in a highly informative, entertaining, and visually compelling format". And it certainly does that, with 20 million uniques globally, 215,48 million unique page views, 5,79 million video views. Its YouTube channel has enjoyed 859 714 457 video views since May 2006 and currently has 1 264 426 channel subscribers. It also has 10,73 million Facebook fans, 1,98 million Twitter followers and has won 2 Webbys in 2012: Best Green Website (People's Voice) and Best Online Magazine (People's Voice).
South Africa's very own Farmers Weekly, established in 1911, also sports a website, Facebook page, Twitter following and digital magazine.
De Huisgenoot (now SA's largest circulating print title Huisgenoot), came on the scene in 1916, with President Paul Kruger on the cover. The first ad for that issue incidentally was for Stuttafords. It has 198 140 Facebook fans and 27 114 Twitter followers, apps and 64 762 uniques a month on its website.
And I could go on... but all of above illustrates that the magazine (or rather magazine-type content) is clearly not dead in print, nor digitally. In fact it has survived, and adapted, happily to the times/media/technology and by all accounts will continue to do so!
I won't go into the nitty-gritty, but when I suddenly started hearing our editorial teams conceptualising how content spanning social media, apps, web, mobile, print of course, but offline channels too, I knew the old dogs had learnt new tricks, including me :)
Proof is in the pudding
The proof, however, is in the pudding with Vodacom's now! [disclaimer: New Media client], that's now non-issue-based and responsively designed mainly for mobile devices. Mercedes' MBlife [disclaimer: New Media client] follows a similar strategy complementing a quarterly print magazine. Eat Out [disclaimer: New Media client] is accessible not only via website, app, Facebook and Twitter, but also via the Go! travel app, iafrica.com and built into the free Telmap Navigator sat nav app available on iOs, Blackberry and Android too.
Technology is purely the enabler... we could be publishing via 3D printing some time very soon. Ultimately, though, it's content that fuels the trends, and to quote David Armano:
"In 2013, content will not only be king, but queen, prince and jester, too!"
Sue Disler has more than 20 years of experience in the advertising and marketing as a designer (and sometimes coder), art director and strategist, the last 16 largely dedicated to digital. Currently, she is head of digital at New Media Publishing. Email her at , follow @suediz on Twitter or find out more on Linkedin.
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