Magazines losing circulation is no longer news. They can’t think of cover price increase is a reality. Advertisers no longer consider magazines as an integral part of their campaign. And digital content monetisation has not been easy.
Magazines must seek fresher perspectives.
The argument that goes against magazines is simple. We are living in a digital era of instant gratification. Some instant notifications and updates give you more than you may want to know on a subject. The reader’s attention span in video dominant world is dropping alarmingly. The inference is direct and straightforward. Magazines have no role to play.
Hopefully, they are only partially right and making a grave error in over generalisation.
It will be false to presume that the new generation do not read magazine content. The truth remains that they are looking for relevant, original and impactful content to engage with. Their life is all about seeking engagement and social affection. Maybe to hide their sense of insecurity and at the same times make a mark for themselves.
One cannot deny the information overflow. There is enhanced accessibility, affordability and availability of digital content. There is content overload trying to find their communities and set of audiences. It makes you question if the content is really the king.
No one wants to pay for what is available for free. Audiences are deeply engaged with Facebook, Whatsapp and OTT platforms. The lines are drawn. If audience interest needs to be rejuvenated, they need to wean away from these to devote time to magazines.
In the new scenario, magazines are seen as time-filler, time-killer. Most magazines with their template non-differentiated content are not adding to reader’s knowledge. Its Time-pass Singdana. There is nothing to add or look forward to.
The downward spiral seems unstoppable in the absence of proactive action. Hopefully, there is still time.
Magazines must rationally answer the questions.
Magazines must first seriously investigate and interrogate their readers. Look at the changes in their lifestyle and new realities to answer the most crucial question. Why read me? And then try answering another critical issue, ‘Why advertise in it?
The first step is content re-orientation. The content must be exclusive in some way and not freely available. Being niche is now better than being general. Being selective and limited may be better than being mass.
Magazines post-re-orientation, re-evaluation of their relationship with the need to provide content the readers are actively seeking. Magazines need not only speak from the point of expertise, trust and respect but must be perceived so. The days of being a tailor who the customer guided with requirements and instruction are over. It’s time for the magazine to be a doctor. An expert knows the pulse and the prescription remains open for a second opinion but not questioning.
It is not surprising that most women, fashion and celebrity-centric magazines continue to show a drop in circulation and engagement. Even the digital avatar fails to engage the reader.
Globally, the reader still turns to news and current affairs titles in an attempt to make sense of the geopolitical and economic chaos. Something everyone has an opinion on but fails in more in-depth understanding and insight.
The learning is simple, and there is nothing new in it. Readers chase a title, when they find the content unique, not easily accessible and relevant to their lives.
Some of the real powerful magazine brands have tried native & branded content, video, paid products, merchandising, special analytical services, and brand extensions. In the absence of real re-evaluation and deeper internalisation, they are merely buying time. They continue to believe that tweaking is the way forward. When what is needed is a disruption.
‘Why read me’ or ‘why access me’ still need to be answered first. Once you sort this typical tough question, everything else will be easy. Advertising will be a natural outcome.
It is far easier to write and comment on the situation than to really weave a network of future actions.
Will co-creation work for magazine brands?
To re-power and rejuvenating the titles, magazines must re-evaluate their reason for existence. They should be willing to re-address their content basket. Look to co-create the magazine with their desired, current and potential readers, issue by issue. Magazines must be buzzier with unique content differentiation between the physical and digital avatar.
On the other side, magazines can attempt to experiment. The objective remains to create a win-win solution. Maybe co-creating relevant, original and impactful communication solutions with stakeholders is one such answer. Involving brand custodians, advertisers with an open mind and innovative approaches, editors, sales and other stakeholders to engage the readers. All of it must benefit the ultimate consumer for both magazine and advertiser. It will be great if the reader in addition to curated content is chasing something more in the magazines.
Stop milking the Golden Goose of Innovation and co-creation.
Magazines can do everything that the newspaper does, and a lot better. However, they have like the newspapers remained greedy for an immediate return. Innovation and co-created solutions have always been overpriced. This led to advertisers moving away and not considering these exciting possibilities.
The objective should be to demonstrate the capabilities, impact and effectiveness, To create a buzz going for both the title and the advertiser. And to engage the new generation to read, experience and share. Maybe, in that case, these co-created brand solutions could be the window to their positive experience and impression.
Still, it cannot be a tactical solution. Only a sustained effort with frequent surprises can deliver the desired positive effect.
Will, it actually happen, is merely a theoretical question. There is no answer other than attempting to co-create.
Co-creation is simple.
Co-creation just needs a willing set of minds to investigate and interrogate the brand. State precisely the constraints and benefits. Be prepared to question the Probortunity before them. Use the ideation tools and co-create a range of solutions with direct stakeholders. Such IdeaHARVEST can lead to a final co-owned co-created co-evaluated viable option. Driving buzz and excitement.
Can such an experiment along with the magazine’s sincere effort to redefined content and raison d’être flip its fortune?