The effect of the decline in newspaper sales on the PR industry is well documented. All good PR professionals now have an eye to online and social communications as well as traditional media.
However, recent figures indicate that the luxury end of the market is bucking the trend. Cosmopolitan magazine (or “Cosmo” as Generation X calls it) has seen its circulation rise from 250,000 in 2014 to over 400,000 in 2016. While some of this can be attributed to new distribution and pricing strategies as it gives away 100,000 free copies and has a reduced price of only £1, the magazine industry is clearly not yet dead.
In a recent feature on Radio 4’s Media Show, editor Farrah Storr outlined a marked shift in the magazine’s content strategy. Recognising that its readers are already getting their news and gossip online, the magazine has returned to long-form journalism with a focus on features. The content in the magazine is different to its website, which has instead become a platform for short, sharp and up to the minute news.
Other magazines are following suit: Esquire, GQ, Vogue, and even the oldies’ favourite, The Spectator, are now separating their content in the same way to both maintain the print experience and capitalise on SEO. Late 2016, Glamour magazine announced it would be discontinuing the handbag sized issue of its publication, stating that the “print experience is now regarded as more luxurious and indulgent, most likely to be consumed at home”. When on the move, women are more likely to flick open their phone for their quick news fix.
As so much of our working and commuting lives are spent on screens: phones, tablets, laptops, desktops; the digital detox is becoming a popular way to relax. The indulgence of a print magazine, with its smell and feel is a good way to kick back in the evening and at weekends. Even though I love my technology, I also enjoy the magazine experience and publishers are clearly capitalising on this.
Recent research has shown that the decline in book sales is reversing, as people switch off their Kindles and revert to print, with a 0.4% rise in book sales. Although largely fuelled by film franchises and the rise in adult colouring books, maybe the digital detox is catching on.
As always, the PR industry needs to adapt constantly to keep up with these rollercoaster changes, but it is undoubtedly positive news for journalists and for our skilled copywriters. Whilst we are all using the snappy “top ten” approach to generate coverage, we must remain mindful of the traditional feature.
Online coverage is hugely valuable in its longevity, reach and commercial benefit, but the comfort factor of a physical piece of coverage still makes us happy. What we as PR people need to do is ensure that our stories work for both types of media and that our copywriting keeps its standards up – not damaged by the brevity required of social media and websites. As always, it’s essential to take time to understand the publications, their writers and their needs, while ensuring PR retains a focus on quality and clarity in communication.
Article written by Angela Casey, managing director of PR agency Pagoda Porter Novelli
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