Print is being repositioned. And there is lots of room for creativity.

If you are a member of the organisation FIPP, you have access to their latest report "The future of print – Defining the new role of magazines in today's media mix" via their website. FIPP is one of the world’s oldest membership associations, founded already in 1925, focusing on sharing ideas for magazine publishers, media owners and content creators. 

There are lots of interesting findings in the report, but to sum it up: Print is being repositioned, and there is lots of room for creativity.

Premiumisation of paper products

The report states already in the introduction that the transition is ongoing. Print is being repositioned from hub to spoke. Where the printed magazine used to be the core content delivery platform, it is now one channel among all the different channels in the brand wheel.

So, it will be important for media companies to use of the strengths of print and paper as a channel for interacting with the user. The report mentions some of the unique and powerful characteristics that make print a premium product:

  • high levels of reader attention and engagement
  • immersive reading experience
  • inherent authority and credibility
  • tactile and creative characteristics which are very different from most digital media and cut through the digital clutter

Magasine spread interior design printed on uncoated paper

Creative development trends

The report brings up some different key trends and examples of premium strategies. Reduction of publishing frequency to monthly or alternate monthly is common, where the alternate monthly frequency has now grown its share. At the same time, the average weighted cover price has risen.

Another trend is the emergence of one-shots and bookazines. This category is on the rise, and the distinction between regular magazines and one-shot issues blurs, for example in the form where a series of one-shots is packaged under an over-arching brand.

A third trend is that tightly niched and often highly creative new wave magazines, with small circulation, populate and inspire different parts of the market. These are magazines demonstrating the passion for something, such as arts or crafts, or even content from a specific consumer-targeting brand aiming to reach the public through subcultural bonding. Print makes it possible to cut through the noise and be in a world of something collectible and tangible. 

Cost-cutting strategy

The FIPP report states that 65% of FIPP members see print as a premium, luxury platform in their portfolio. These publishers tend to push up the cover price, and make sure to offer print and digital bundles with high value. They are also good at actively recycle archive content into different products such as bookazines, guides and calendars. The other 35% has a more obvious focus on cost-cutting, trying to hold the cover prices at current levels. Cost-cutting also involves taking out low-circulating days and going digital only for those editions.

As a paper producer, we would like to point out that thanks to the development of paper and consumer perceptions, there is a viable path to go premium with the printed product and still cut cost. When using a high-bulk uncoated magazine paper you can make a thick magazine with low distribution cost and still catch attention with excellent haptics and image reproduction. 

Sustainability is core

One of the main issues that the FIPP report points out revolves around the sustainability of paper-based products. A number of different sources confirm that environmental impact has a growing influence among consumers, and this affects their views on paper and print. "However, print publishers argue that many consumers simply do not understand the complexity of the print versus digital debate when looking at the end-to-end process", the report states, and underlines the need for better communication and education from the industry in general.

"Paper fibres are generally obtained from the top quarter of a tree."

"Paper fibres are generally obtained from the top quarter of a tree. The main part of a harvested tree is used for construction and furniture manufacture, and paper mills are traditionally part of bigger groups associated with timber production," explains Danny Doogan from Denmaur in the report. He also points out that paper comes from commercial forestry, not ancient woodlands or tropical rain forests, and that the paper industry is among the most regulated in the world. Certified producers follow strict international standards for health and safety, quality, environmental and energy management. 

Visit the  FIPP webpage to read the full report.