How Marketers Should React to the Thinning of Print Publications

When I see print publications in our HRmarketer headquarters office, I’m reminded of the novel “Thinner.”

For just like the protagonist in Stephen King’s book (he wrote it under his Richard Bachman pseudonym), many print publications are getting thinner and thinner and thinner. Some seem more like pamphlets than magazines.

In the novel, the man shrivels from obese to emaciated due to a gypsy’s curse. The thinning of print publications is mostly the Internet’s doing. The story doesn’t end well for the man, and with many newspapers and other publications folding or going online only (e.g. Newsweek), the story isn’t going so well for print publications, either. While the latter story is still unfolding, it has some important implications and takeaways for marketers.

First, here is a quick view of the process driving the thinning of publications:

1. People head to the Internet/social media first for content.

2. People read more content that is not from periodicals to which they subscribe.

3. People are less engaged with those print periodicals, since they have other sources of quality content.

The proliferation of online news sites has contributed
to the struggles of print publications.
4. People stop paying for print subscriptions, causing some publications to offer free subscriptions, which further reduces the engagement level of the average reader.

5. Advertisers move from print to online, or choose to stop advertising altogether.

6. Print publications get smaller due to decreased advertising.

The effects of the thinning of publications include:

- Not as many articles in many print publications.

- Struggling publications cut writers, meaning that they are in need of content.

- The value of placing articles in these publications is reduced due to having smaller, less-engaged audiences.

- Placements in the publications that still have large, highly engaged audiences are increasingly valuable, but are more difficult to get, as these publications have enough advertising dollars come in to pay for sufficient writers.

So what is the marketer to do? The best choice, as it often is, is to diversify your approach. Get your content out in as many ways as possible to maximize your readership. This means:

- Going for the “best bet.” With many smaller publications in need of content for both print and online, meet their needs with quality thought-leadership articles.

- Shooting for the stars. Pitch major publications, especially when you have a story to tell that is relevant to a hot topic in the news or your industry.

- Starting at home. Don’t forget your own ability as an online content distributor — be your own media outlet by becoming a content marketer. Develop your social media networks and your blog’s audience by sharing and writing quality content. Create white papers and other major pieces of content, and use a variety of tactics to promote them. Often times, you can transform these content pieces into articles suitable for publication, plus they give you ideas for pitches. Also, if you require registration for your major content pieces, the readers become sales leads, a benefit you don’t get from article placements. For more on this, see our article “Content Marketing: The Best Way to Reach and Influence HR.”

Ultimately, despite the thinning of print publications, article placements remain an important part of a successful media strategy. On average, print placements have become less important and online placements have become more valuable. Also, with online opportunities allowing companies to become their own media outlets, to maximize one’s audience (and sales leads), it’s necessary to take advantage of content marketing.

Post written by HRmarketer / SocialEars HR team member Eric Anderson.

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