The Conundrum of Creating Engaging Print

I was reading some articles on Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism “State of the News Media 2012” report and came across the graphic below.

Top 10 Magazine Advertisers 2012

Leaving aside the big jump for AstraZeneca, the fact that jumps out at me is the bifurcation in the presumed value of the medium. There were some notable increases in spend, offset by some equally notable declines. Advertisers are clearly split about whether magazines are really a vibrant ad medium. While readers continue to methodically migrate to web- or mobile devices for media consumption, they are not making that shift “overnight”. And in the fragmented online media landscape, magazines continue to deliver a platform in which readers willingly accept advertising. So, magazines should be able to justify their ad platform easily, right?

But, the canary in the coalmine is time spent in the medium relative to the proportion of media spend that magazines garner. Magazines continue to collect a disproportionate level of the total ad media spend when measured against the time consumers spend with the medium, as shown in the following eMarketer graphic (we simply don’t curl up with magazines as often as we park in front of computer, or read content on our tablets or phones.) And advertisers realize that.

eMarketer 2011 Ad Spend v. Time Spent in Medium

Unless print magazines can do something to dramatically increase engagement with their printed pages, advertisers will follow the eyeballs and take their ad revenue into other media. New image-recognition triggered augmented reality applications (e.g. Aurasma or Metaio) are one technique we expect to see used more commonly to facilitate media convergence and make printed pages a portal to extended content. (Conde Nast has integrated AR content into the September GQ issue (GQ Live)). Continued evolution in personalized advertising should open the door to greater targeting of ad messaging (which if applied carefully should also help increase engagement with individual issues.)

Readers seem to enjoy the tangible nature of their printed titles, plus we are still culturally attuned to the comfortable browsing experience of printed media. But these ingrained habits are not enough to fight off the allure of more dynamic media, or the increasingly interactive power of emerging tablet apps. To extend print’s useful life until online business models can mature will take a dose of technical creativity to make static print come to life.

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