Author: Michael Keating, Joint CEO

What’s the favourite new medium for the world’s biggest digital brands? The answer may surprise you: print media.

Two more “digital first” companies have just launched brand extension magazines this week. 

Bumble and Netflix continue the trend

Bumble (the networking and dating app) and Netflix have become the latest in a long line of distinguished companies to understand that print is a unique tool if you want to connect directly with your key audience in a profound way.

But what does this tell us about today’s media world and the wider future of multi-channel consumption, both for upcoming and legacy companies? For those of you short of time, let us summarise what magazines offer: real, deep connection to real people.

"I dispute the conventional wisdom that print is dead" 

"There’s always room for a print product to stand out if it’s really high quality. Our users have long sought out our content, and told us they wanted more stories, more advice, and more real-talk about dating, careers, friendship, wellness and life in general”, Bumble Editorial Director Clare O’Connor said in a statement recently.

The leaders of the digital pack – Airbnb, Facebook, ASOS, Uber, Dollar Shave Club, and Net-a-Porter – ALL have recently launched print magazines. 

 “In preparation for a groundbreaking year 

In film and television, Netflix has gathered some of the most talented and sought after writers and photographers, thinkers and creatives, to make the inaugural issue of Wide, the Netflix print journal,” the entertainment giant wrote in one email.

Yes, they have all agitated very successfully in their own markets and changed our lives forever, but they’ve also, in a relatively short time, learned that the world is still heavily influenced by print, that if you want to make a genuine, real and lasting connection with your consumers, you ought to get the presses rolling.

But WHY does print do that? And HOW?

1) No distractions

A woman reading a magazine, photographed by BBH Singapore

Print provides no distractions or mindless interruptions. It never has a low battery or a network outage. It’s an intimate, stable and positive connection, not a small-screened digital device bombarding us with notifications, phone calls, emails and breaking (bad) news, leading us down rabbit holes and stealing away our precious time. 

2) Authority

The Wall Street Journal photographed by Philip Strong


Since around the year 1440, print media has been a trusted source of all key information. Maybe this is because once something is printed, it cannot be altered (tablets of stone and all that). But also, publications have spent years creating a bond of trust between themselves and the loyal reader. Years of building that confidence has significant value.

3) Inspiration

Stacks of magazines, photographed by Charisse Kenion

Magazines and adverts inspire, that’s a fact. 82% of polled readers in Germany judged magazines as the best place for suggesting new ideas (Print Wirkt, 2015). And it’s this inspiration that leads to an action or a purchase. 45% of respondents to an IPC survey indicated that a magazine has inspired them to purchase an advertised product.

4) Marketeers love magazines

Someone pointing to a blue map, photographed by Fancycrave

Readers of magazines demonstrate higher levels of comprehension and recall than digital consumers do, because print stimulates emotions and desires like no other medium. Readers of print are required to focus their attentions more clearly and therefore magazines not only boost purchase intent by more than 17%, they build awareness, familiarity and fondness for a brand.

Print strategy

Sure, all of the above theory is important, but let’s take the UK as a perfect sample market. 

The country’s three largest circulation magazines are all brand extensions (The National Trust, Tesco and Asda) and, clearly, they have print at their heart of their communication strategy. They recognise that they themselves need to put their brands into the world under their own terms - in a controlled and positive fashion. And most certainly not placed next to a negative story or fake news.

Mr. Chesky the Co-founder, CEO, Head of Community at Airbnb embraced the idea of a print travel publication because “there’s the possibility that [the magazine] can be saved. It isn’t ephemeral, as opposed to content on a feed that expires”. Back in 2014, Airbnb published Pineapple; a print travel publication, which Mr. Chesky described as a “niche, bespoke magazine”.

Up in the air

But also think of this whole matter from an advertiser’s standpoint too. 

As an example, American Airlines will have 500,000 people on its planes today, and sitting in front of them is a high quality free magazine that is on-brand, upbeat and beautiful. We already know that its readership is affluent and that the person is really there, not digitally-imagined our automated. 

And lots of people read it. 

In fact, passenger numbers are going up around 5% year on year meaning that, as an advertiser, you know that your brand is part of a medium that is growing.

Connecting with customers

Sure, digital has been an exciting step forward, but if you want to find the most successful place to convey brand messaging and truly connect with your customers, magazines are the perfect (controlled) outward expression. A brand can communicate the company’s news, introduce offers, demonstrate its true values, speak of its aspirations and convey an overall mission in a magazine.

Beth Egan, associate professor in the advertising department at the Newhouse School recently said: “user behaviours haven’t changed as quickly, and people still enjoy reading magazines. No doubt the business has changed forever, but I think there is a unique experience with magazines that can’t be replicated.”

Print matters

But, what do all of these magazine facts today, inform us of tomorrow? A recent study showed that campaigns that used print and online adverts together improved persuasion metrics by more than 10%. So, clearly print is here to stay, and on the increase in many cases – but clearly co-existence and co-reliance between print and digital is the future.

So, let me conclude and say that print matters and is already part of people’s everyday life and always will be. It’s read, understood, trusted and still very much has its place in today’s multi-channel world.

But finally, you also need to ask yourself: do you want to roll with the successful Netflix/Facebook/Bumble/Uber gang and double down on print? Or are you just going to continue with the unfathomable belief that digital alone delivers the sustainable substance that you are looking for?

Interested? Come talk to us about how, together we can innovative and create high-quality content that grows your brand both in print and on digital channels.

And, remember, we too can also build out tailor-made marketing packages that answer your awareness and engagement questions. Think of us as your partner; a strategic thinker who will help solve your challenges in today’s ever-changing media world.