Online brands turning to print

Digital-based brands are increasingly launching print magazines to improve engagement with consumers and access new sections of the market.

The latest is Airbnb, a site that allows people to rent out rooms in their homes, which just launched a glossy 128-page print magazine called Pineapple with travel features, food scene reviews and many four-colour pictures.

Other web-based companies turning to print recently include music site Pitchfork with its quarterly review, a biannual print magazine by Editorialist – a fashion accessories site founded by former Elle editors – and CNET, one of the oldest online tech publications.

A number of online-only retailers have also begun distributing catalogues or ‘magalogues’, a hybrid product with both sales, product info and features, which has been embraced by established retailers like Myer and Woolworths too.

The brands say having a printed asset like a magazine helps them connect with consumers and be active in more areas of their lives, and to communicate with older, less tech-savvy buyers.

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Editorialist co-founder Kate Davidson Hudson told Adweek the website saw a ‘huge uptick’ in sales of pieces that were featured in its magazine.

“The big missing piece of that puzzle, ironically, was having a tangible medium to connect with them on,” she said.

Two Sides Australia executive director Kellie Northwood says brands have increasingly been becoming their own publishers over the past 18 months and the trend has hit Australia strongly too in the past six months.

“It gives them an opportunity to promote their brand’s value as more than just sales, but they need to invest in rich content that people want to read to pull it off,” she says.

“They get a longer dialogue with customers and can develop brand personalities, better control how the brand is discussed and presented, and encourage loyalty.

“Online is good for getting attention, but the conversation is shorter and interrupted by other things, while print readers are focused on the product.”

Northwood says market research shows consumers are more engaged with print, with more than half of Australians reading a catalogue for 30 minutes a week, and brands should have both print and digital marketing to get the best results.

Studies show consumers remember more of what they see in print as opposed to online, with university students remembering an average of 4.24 stories in a newspaper, compared with 3.35 in the online version.

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Building legitimacy is another key reason online brands are investing in print. Airbnb wants to position itself not just as a site to facilitate room rentals, but as helping to provide an entire travel experience.

The company is making a push to create brand loyalty by fostering a community, and says the magazine aims ‘to explore our fundamental values: sharing, community and belonging,’ and to ‘inspire and motivate exploration, not just within the cities featured, but within any space a reader finds themselves’.

Northwood says print is considered one of the most trustworthy mediums by consumers and using it makes the brand seem more credible.

She also says that with so many advertisers moving out of print there is less mail going into letterboxes, making it easier for brands to cut through.

“In a world of digital marketing, communicating through print allows brands to stand out and set them apart from competitors. Magazines are not considered clutter because people want to read them,” she says.

Northwood says traditional magazine titles and their publishers will in the future be challenged more by competition from brands themselves than from other mediums.

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