The debut of Porter, fashion website Net-a-Porter’s magazine, has caused a stir in the world of print. Why? Well, because of the very fact that it launched as a print edition. It’s a seemingly counter intuitive decision considering that the media landscape is becoming increasingly digital.
You only need to look at the figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation to see that magazine sales have been on a downward spiral for quite some time – down 6.3% in the latest report. This immediately begs the question – why did Porter even bother with print?
The answer might lie in how and to what depth content in consumed across the two channels. Research by Hearst Magazine shows only a third of people who read a magazine in its digital format actually read the publication from cover to cover. Meanwhile, print readers claimed to read over three-quarters of a print version, according to a survey by the Professional Publishers Association. It’s certainly a staggering statistic.
The launch of Porter’s print edition may also be explained by the fact that print provides advertisers with the reassurance of knowing exactly when and where their ad will appear, which is something that digital can’t guarantee. We’re hearing more and more about ad-misplacement online, print, however, rules out this risk.
But while print has its obvious advantages, we can’t ignore the fact that the media is becoming increasingly digital, with a huge number of publications placing online at the top of their agendas. This has of course come from the rise in tablet and smartphone ownership, which has created a “real-time nation” where immediacy is everything. This is something digital can deliver, and perhaps the biggest reason it has raced ahead of its print counterpart.
So why does Porter think its print edition will survive in a digital market? The answer is simple. It has understood its audience and has integrated its online and print offering as such. Before we get into the detail of how, it’s important to point out that Porter is different because it’s the brainchild of a retailer not a publisher, so arguably the creators have more knowledge on the consumers’ journey to purchase as opposed to a “regular” magazine.
With that in mind, Porter found that women prefer to read about fashion in glossy pages even as they shop online. As such, Porter magazine fills the gap by making the preferred medium (glossy magazines) shoppable.
The integrated approach allows readers to take a photo of a page with their smartphones, which then calls up the shopping programme. Readers will also be able to access digital versions of Porter via their desktops or on their connected devices. That said, they have absolutely remembered editorial is at its heart, so have ensured not to bombard consumers with sales messages. The print edition gives only the barest hint that the product featured on the page is “shoppable” – there are no barcodes to scan.
Porter has also taken on board feedback from consumers on ad placement. Readers wanted articles to appear at the front of the magazine, as they didn’t want to have to go through pages and pages of ads before they reached the editorial content, and the magazine reflects this preference.
We have to remember, that while we’re becoming more and more digital, it’s unlikely that print will truly disappear. Photos didn’t replace paintings, television didn’t replace radio and in the same way the Internet won’t replace print.
However, the media brands which will be most successful in the changing landscape are those which enhance their print proposition by integrating it with their online one. Can print and online can survive together? It’s a no brainer…
Mike Cavers is executive creative director at DST Global Insight Group (The GIG at DST)
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