As publishers, we blame our consumers’ changing content consumption habits for the decline in print subscriptions, but we are not changing what we print to reflect our audiences’ evolving content consumption behavior.
The Search for Beaver
In 1920, The Hudson Bay Company (a Canadian department store) debuted the first issue of their company magazine: The Beaver. The magazine, initially devoted to “serving the interests of this who serve The Hudson Bay Company,” evolved over the past ninety-four years into a Canadian history magazine owned by Canada’s National History Society.
As the digital world evolved the publishers of The Beaver noticed an increasing decline in interest for their digital content. It didn’t take long for them to realize that a quick search for “Beaver Magazine” on any reputable search engine resulted in a whole host of porn and smut links having nothing to do with their venerable title. (I imagine you’re aware that the word “beaver” is a sexual euphemism.)
Parents, teachers, even internet providers had spam-filtered searches for any words that might expose their customers and children to less-than-savory content. Unfortunately, for the publishers of Beaver Magazine, it meant that their content was filtered out as well.
Changing their Print Product to Reflect the Realities of the Online World
In April of 2010, Beaver Magazine debuted on newsstands with an entirely new masthead. Canada’s History magazine better reflected the content they created and the new reality that their original title had been associated with the wrong kind of online destinations.
Beaver Magazine simply embraced the idea that the content consumption habits of the online world meant significant changes in the print product were needed. And it worked.
The Publisher’s Challenge
What are you doing to change WHAT you print? How can we blame the consumer for canceling their print subscription when we haven’t redefined what role the print product plays in the digital world? I challenge you to put yourself in the shoes of your primary audience. Spend the day consuming the content they consume, visiting the websites they visit. Then, ask yourself what you could do to make your print product more valuable given the experience you’ve just encountered.
If we’re going to increase the value of the print magazine for as long as we can, we’re going to have to change the content we provide in the magazine. We must define how the print product adds value to their lives.