THE POWER OF PRINT
How the local magazine niche is thriving in a digital media world.
By Tom Britt, Towne Post Network
Traditional media channels have been dramatically impacted over the last couple of decades by what is known as the democratization of media. While television and radio networks have been disrupted by streaming services, the hardest hit media happens to be the poster child for the print industry — newspapers. Over the last 10 years, post-recession newspaper revenues are down 67 percent. However, in an industry that has been called dead by many critics, print is thriving in the local print magazine sector — thanks in part to the adoption of digital media.
With the democratization of media also comes the localization, even hyperlocalization of media. Th is dynamic has created a need, and in turn opportunity, to create a local content aggregation business model that includes print. Th us, the hyper-local magazine niche has emerged and thrived in recent years, especially those that have adopted and embraced a digital media strategy.
Print Marries Digital
While the printing process has not changed over the last few decades, the world of publishing digital content changes daily. Small businesses that advertise to support local magazines are turning more and more to Facebook, Google and digital ad platforms for instant, measurable results.
Meanwhile, print magazines are still on a two-week runway for printing and distribution with little or no way to track response. However, small businesses that leverage print and digital in a local market see a much higher rate of return. When print marries digital in a local market, the response rate increases significantly.
Early in 2003, we launched the website for our local community called atGeist.com serving the Geist Reservoir neighborhoods near Indianapolis, Indiana. We offered free online classifieds, a local event calendar, stories about local students and homeowners association news. Digital ads were sold at a whopping $30 per month with no promise of impressions.
Nine months later, we published the first print publication and direct mailed to roughly 2,800 homes. Response to our new concept from advertisers and homeowners was exceptional. Not only did we fill a local void that newspapers were creating, we also struck a nerve with small business owners that were trying to attract customers within three miles of their front door. We found the combination of web and print to be immensely powerful and local businesses were jumping onboard for the ride.
Along Comes Social Media
Facebook has become a primary traffic source for many local publications, leveraging pages to promote local businesses, community events and stream live video. In many cases, local businesses have forgone websites to dedicate all their digital bandwidth to their Facebook page.
We found the combination of web and print to be immensely powerful and local businesses were jumping onboard for the ride.”
In recent years, Instagram has become a priority amongst local magazines as well. In a white paper entitled Magazine Media 360 published by the Association of Magazine Media, Instagram followers and likes grew 997 percent from 2014-2019, outpacing Twitter (166 percent) and Facebook (103 percent).
Publications today must be relevant every day of the month, not just the day they arrive in the mailbox. Social media, namely Facebook and Instagram, are providing that daily delivery of magazine content.
Print is Still Preferred
Digital media has in most cases replaced the daily paper, but people still yearn for a printed copy to hold and to read. According to the Factbook 2020 report published by the Association of Magazine Media, 73 percent of adults prefer the feel of a print magazine over digital. Magazine readers are also more receptive to advertising, outperforming websites and TV viewers in the same study.
Picking up a print magazine and thumbing through local stories about your community is a nice break from the blue screens. Paper-based reading results in more focused attention, less distractions and leads to higher comprehension and recall according to neuroscience.
Many content providers, including magazines, have turned to video to tell their stories. While we were one of the first magazine networks to incorporate video, we have yet to develop a solid revenue model to support it. In more recent years, we have turned to doing video interviews with our local businesses and then sending the video interview to a writer to produce the print and online story. Consumers want more video, and social media platforms want more engagement that comes with video, so video will need to be an integral part of any local magazine’s future strategy.
Franchise Model to the Rescue
Magazine publishing companies have historically been privately owned, regional businesses. Overhead costs (graphic design, circulation, accounting, rent) and just the fundamental know how of printing and producing magazines creates a natural barrier of entry to get into the local magazine business.
Enter the franchise business model. Centralized graphic design and production, back office accounting, online training and support, negotiated print pricing, dedicated USPS support and many other corporate functions allow local magazine publisher wannabes to set up their territory and launch on a very short runway. Advertisers appreciate the customer support and professionalism of working with an established brand, and franchisees like the ongoing product development to keep the local magazines current.
With more and more local content being created every day across all platforms, the need for local portals with accompanying magazines increases. Consumers are far more interested in content that is local to them and they will always value those aggregators that package it up and feed it to them throughout the month.
Tom Britt is the founder and CEO of Towne Post Network headquartered in Fishers, Indiana. For more information and franchise opportunities for International Franchise Association (IFA) franchisor member Towne Post Network, visit franchise.org/franchiseopportunities/townepost-network-inc.