Why Print Still Matters

Lately, it seems like I only talk about platforms.

Facebook LiveLinkedIn Instant ArticlesGoogle AMPChat bots! A new “platform” for content gets dressed in hype every week. (Platforms, in layman’s terms, are really just new places to publish.) As as an editor today, your job is to milk them for all they’re worth.

For instance, on Thursday evening, one of our recent posts—”13 Works of Classic Literature With Upworthy Titles“—started going viral on the /r/books subreddit. Two hundred thousand hits later, I was scheming over how to remix the post for other platforms. We could easily turn it into a quiz, but the covers would also make for great standalone posts on Instagram. A countdown-style Facebook video might make sense. Hell, we could even make a SlideShare.

This train of thought shows how my brain thinks about media, which is pretty interesting since one of our most effective platforms isn’t connected to the internet at all.

On May 18, at the 2016 Digiday Content Marketing Awards, we won Best Brand Publication for Contently Quarterly, our print magazine. Over the years, our magazine has transformed, as my boss Sam Slaughter put it, from “a ratchet ‘zine of 2012 to a beautiful 160-pager.” It takes a crazy amount of time for our editorial team to put the articles together, and requires a superhuman effort from our small and incredibly talented design team. The circulation doesn’t even reach 10,000, which stands in stark contrast to the 200,000 people who checked out some stupid-funny book titles we came up with while screwing around on Slack. And yet, printing the Quarterly is one of the most important things we do.

Surprisingly not a stock photo!

It’s hard to justify the cost of printing a magazine these days, but it’s actually pretty easy if your business model is selling enterprise software. (Check out Contently’s so I don’t get fired!) If you want to convince someone that you’re committed to quality and craft, why not just put the proof in their hands?

This new reality-based print platform is the real deal.

Since our sales team lugs these puppies to every meeting, our print magazine automatically touches every deal. We gave out copies of our “Finance Edition” Quarterly to the attendees of LinkedIn FinanceConnect last year, and that alone directly influenced 13 new deals, paying for the cost of the magazine and then some.

Basically, it’s the first giant art project I’ve worked on that makes a ton of money. This new reality-based print platform is the real deal.

So when you’re spending your morning, like me, Snapchatting your team with thoughts about your new micro-publishing strategy on Medium, I encourage you to remember the benefits of print too. If you’re selling a product—especially a B2B product—the ROI can be ridiculously high. The boxes they ship in also make great cat toys.

In the meantime, I’ll take my own advice. Those clickbait-headline book covers would make great posters, right?

Update: Here’s the case study video that helped win us the award, in case you are really into case study videos. (This one is pretty good!)

Image by Shutterstock

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