Why Marketers Can’t Count Out Printed Magazines in 2018

The following article was originally published by Publishing Executive. To read more of their content, subscribe to their newsletter, Reboot.

Media pundits like to claim that the magazine industry is failing and that print is an antiquated medium. True or not, the “print is dead” drumbeat inevitably taints the perception media buyers have of print as a viable marketing mechanism. Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of the Association of Magazine Media (MPA), argues that this tired rhetoric glosses over the reality, which is that print is one of the most effective ways to deeply engage consumers, build brand awareness, and sell products. During a presentation at DigiPub: Harnessing the Power of Data-Driven Print in November, Brooks shared third-party research on printed magazines, which reveal an alternative narrative. “We learned that magazine media works because it builds brand and sells product at the same time,” said Brooks.

Marketers are beginning to reawaken to the value of print as well. The digital revolution made it easier than ever for brands to market directly to consumers, so in the past several years ad spend has gone toward direct marketing tactics, said Brooks. That strategy has hurt brand awareness because many advertisers have focused solely on converting consumers at the point of purchase rather than reaching and engaging new prospects early in the purchase cycle. Brands are beginning to realize that this approach is not sustainable. In addition, brands have encountered new challenges online, such as ad fraud and ads appearing on disreputable sites, which muddle the real value of their online display ads. With brands reevaluating their marketing spend, it’s the perfect time for magazine publishers to make the case that print is an important channel in the marketing arsenal and demonstrate how they can help marketers build brand awareness and sell product.

Below are four key takeaways from Brooks’ presentation. Much of the research referenced can be found on the MPA’s Research & Tools page and could be useful for publishers (and their publication printers) as they hone their pitches on print.

1. Print Magazines Have the Reach

“When marketers think of upper funnel activity, they are often thinking of television ads, but magazine media is terrific at reaching in-market consumers,” said Brooks. According to Nielsen and GfK MRI research conducted in the spring of 2017, the top six magazines — including PeopleBetter Homes & Gardens, and National Geographic — have a larger reach among 18- to 49-year-olds than anything on television. “People haven’t walked away from print,” explained Brooks. “They continue to go to print for inspiration and go to digital channels for complementary information.”

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2. Print Magazines Drive Results

A study prepared by Millward Brown Digital, an authority in the assessment of advertising impact, analyzed how different media mixes affect brand lift and purchase intent among consumers. Looking at 150 case studies, across consumer packaged goods, automotive, entertainment, and financial services industries, the study found that when print was added to the marketing mix, brand awareness went up the most, as much as 15%. Read the full study: The Print Campaign Analysis Prepared for MPA by Millward Brown.

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In addition, Millward Brown found that lower funnel metrics like message association, brand favorability, and purchase intent increase when print ads are part of a campaign. Purchase intent increases 17% when magazines are a part of the media mix.

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A study conducted by Nielsen Catalina Solutions looked at 1,400 ad campaigns from 2004 to 2015 and found that the return on ad spend (ROAS) for print magazines was higher than digital display, television, mobile, and digital video. For every dollar spent on print magazine ads, brands received a $3.94 return. That was significantly higher than the second best media channel, digital display, which earned an ROAS of $2.63.

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3. Print Magazines Are Trusted

Part of the reason that magazines drive such powerful results for brands is that they are highly trusted by consumers, according to the MPA’s Linda Thomas Brooks. “The consumer has said, ‘Here’s my name, home address, and credit card info.’ They have invited that magazine into their home and the advertiser gets to be the plus one.” That trust is a significant advantage in an industry where fake news has exploded online and programmatic ads may appear next to disreputable or even harmful content.

4. Print Magazines Demand More Attention

In 2015, the MPA commissioned a study based on neuroscience, which explored how consumers read content and brand messages across different mediums. The research showed that when consumers want to understand a specific topic or be inspired by something, print magazines are the preferred format for all age groups, including millennials. Print magazines are a deeper reading experience, said Brooks, meaning consumers are reading at slower speeds, are more focused and attentive, and as a result have higher comprehension and recall of branded messaging.

“There is good news in the industry,” concluded Brooks, “We have to wrestle with tough issues, but don’t forget that the very foundation of magazine media is a very powerful one.”

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