Publishing Lessons From a $25 Magazine With a Pop-Up Swiss Army Knife

“Print is the new black.” That’s what Content Strategist’s Natalie Burg wrote last week about the trend of brands asking themselves, “Why spend €40,000 a page to advertise in Vogue when, for the same amount of money, you can publish an entire magazine?”

But apparently, brands aren’t the only ones launching print magazines. Vintage Magazine is one new “traditional” publisher trying to bring paper back. Earlier this month, a panel of Vintage supporters gathered at McNally Jackson to discuss how to make print work, dishing some pointers that could benefit brand publishers looking to embrace print.

Make it an Experience

One of the reoccurring themes was the desire to make a print magazine more than a magazine. “It’s like having a curated museum delivered to your home,” AdWeek critic Barbara Lippert said of the new publication.

Vintage cover designer Chip Kidd thinks of the magazine as “an artisanal, fabulous craft book.” The magazine’s thick pages feel meant for readers to flip through again and again, and in them, writers reminisce about typewriters and speakeasies, nightgowns and dining rooms. The magazine also attempts to be interactive, in an old-school kind of way. One issue features a pop-up swiss army knife, while the latest contains a handmade paper house. Making the magazine is a long, laborious process, and as a result, Vintage has priced limited-edition copies at $25.00 — the kind of financial necessity that brands can avoid.

The Latest Cover of Vintage Magazine

Distribute Smartly

Vintage sells in boutique bookstores like Colette and Shakespeare & Co in Paris and McNally Jackson in New York. “It’s got international scope and each issue sells out,” Baer Sherman said. Vintage isn’t meant to reach a million people, but it means a lot to those who buy it: “It’s a collector’s item. We do a limited run on purpose, though hopefully we can get it up a bit more with each print,” Sherman added. Simply put, the people who shop at boutique bookstores are the people willing to drop $25 for a magazine.

Brands should also smartly distribute their print magazine in places (other than their own stores) where their desired audience will be. Think of it like the analog version of sponsored content distribution. Backpacker maker Hercshel Supply Co. distributes their adventure-filled publication, The Journal, in East Village skate shops. Red Bull stocks New York Sports Club with copies of The Red Bulletin, an extreme sports-centered mag. To reach the “Hamptons summer set” directly, luxury e-tailer hired model messenger boys to hand-deliver copies of their miniature broadsheet, Mr. Porter Post.

Keep it Accessible Online

Vintage is working on their digital presence, and hopes to create a tablet version soon. Baer Sherman aims to explore how to create an exciting digital edition. “I don’t know computer programming well enough to know what’s possible, but I think anything is possible,” she said. “I want to make it pop and do crazy things.” Given that Vintage has already won design prizes against magazine machines Condé Nast and Hearst, maybe she’ll start the new standard for tablet reading.

A solid digital presence doesn’t necessarily mean plopping your print pub on its own site. Herschel’s The Journal publishes a feature from their print publication, also called The Journal, every Thursday. International fashion boutique Opening Ceremony releases a limited-edition magazine, Opening Ceremony Annual, both in print and via iPad.

A magazine is its own, exclusive experience, but the truth is that most people find their reading online, not at their local boutique bookstore. Luckily, it’s not an all-or-nothing game. Brands can let their digital strategy compliment their print approach, making their content accessible to all.

What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.

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