Positivity and publishing have not exactly been synonymous in recent times.
This week’s release of ABC magazine circulation figures will be another painful experience for many publishers.
The closure of the once-mighty FHM or the cost-cutting plans announced at The Guardian have provided doom-mongers and digital evangelists with plenty of ammunition for the "print is dead" narrative.
It would be foolhardy to deny that the business of selling paper and ink is increasingly hostile. FHM’s demise typifies the need for evolution. Strong brands are not impervious to damage.
But, if you allow yourself to look past the pessimism, there is much to be excited about.
When you think about it, newspaper and magazine publishers own brands that are the embodiment of a lot of current brand thinking.
Publisher brands are purposeful. They exhibit a unique world view – something many advertisers would crave.
They understand why they exist, whom they exist to service and how to communicate with their audiences in a credible way. Publisher brands are experts in content marketing, existing across multiple channels and touchpoints. Arguably, they invented it – where do you think agencies stole the idea of a "newsroom"?
Publishers create culture, just like we tell our clients they should. From the 2015 general election to those pictures of Kim Kardashian, publishers not only report on but also fundamentally shape the cultural fabric of society. They create the fuel for social networks – the stuff we love to share and the stuff that creates value for the Twitters and Facebooks of this world.
However, decisive action is required because publishing’s cultural and curatorial value alone will not help change the fortunes of this sector.
More should be asked of the ABC. While it has integrated digital editions into its numbers, the biannual reports fail to paint a true picture of the reach and impact magazine brands offer across all their touchpoints. There are similar flaws with the ABC newspaper reports.
Audiences don’t consume media channels. They consume media brands – and we must recognise that. There must also be innovation and experimentation on the supply side, with more platforms and more routes to market.
Trinity Mirror’s chief revenue officer, James Wildman, used an article in Campaign to (rightly) accuse media agencies and advertisers of "printism" – an irrational prejudice against the printed medium.
Media agencies can do more to help publishers by being:
Excited about ideas, not just demanding value.
Not pessimistic and a true partner.
Outcome-focused, not fashion-conscious.
Publishers have long demonstrated effectiveness for advertisers in ways that many newer media forms have not.
For clients looking to rub shoulders with premium content or other premium advertisers, or those wanting to establish a deeper and more meaningful relationship with their audiences, publishers continue to provide a brilliant route to achieving these aims.
But, too often, that is not the narrative we hear. It’s up to advertisers and agencies, as well as media owners, to focus on the positives of publishing.
Tom Darlington is the head of planning at Goodstuff Communications