“The print industry is a sinking ship” – a statement that has, in times of digitization, manifested itself in the minds of society. But amidst fake news, fast-paced lifestyles and “snack content”, the audience seems to return to tangible print products, making publishers like Hearst UK transform digital ideas into printed words.
The power of print
Hearst UK publishes 23 brands, including ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping – with its print and digital brands reaching more than one-in-three UK women and one-in-four UK men every month.
James Wildman, the business’s president and CEO, says Hearst’s success is very much down to an understanding that consumers will always value quality and engaging content.
“Magazines in particular provide an immersive, wholly positive environment for the reader,” he says. “In the latest round of ABCs, we had nine brands record period-on-period growth and four brands record year-on-year growth. The fact that several of our magazines are increasing their readership in print highlights the extraordinary quality and continuing appeal of our print products.
Wildman adds that, with issues such as fake news, we are also starting to see the pendulum swing back towards print with advertisers, due to the trust and context Hearst can offer.
“For me, the future of Hearst is an evolution of our content and how we deliver it, whilst still retaining that trust with consumers,” he says. “We of course recognise the importance of delivering our content in other environments too, and we’ll continue to strengthen and drive both our digital and experiential offering, but the experience that magazines offer readers is not something to ever underestimate.”
The print and digital mix
Hearst circulates over five million magazines a month, reaching more than 20 million people per month on its own sites, and has more than 79 million likes and follows through our social media platforms – and Wildman says this also demonstrates the value of a print and digital mix.
“Our print and digital mix is delivering really well across all of our brands because our respective editorial teams work so closely together and this is key to our success. We’re constantly being told that bitesize information is all we can process these days due to so many distractions, but I truly believe consumers want it all,” adds. “Through our trusted brands, we provide a variety of content that caters to all needs - long reads, short reads, investigative pieces, fun pieces, video content and social content.”
Reverse publishing at Hearst
But what about reverse publishing and the value it can add for audiences? Wildman says there are a number of examples within Hearst UK: “Inspired by the Airbnb community, Airbnb Magazine is a collaboration between Hearst Magazines and Airbnb offering readers an insider’s view of global destinations echoing the spirit and reach of the people-powered platform.
“It’s truly a bi-coastal operation with the New York City-based Hearst team creating the editorial with guidance and direction from Airbnb's content team in San Francisco,” he says. “The magazine has a team of editors, writers, designers and marketers overseen by chief content officer Kate Lewis, president, marketing and publishing director Michael Clinton, and Airbnb’s CEO and head of community Brian Chesky.”
Airbnb Magazine continues Hearst’s successful strategy of forging valuable partnerships with culturally significant and successful companies, personalities and brands,” Wildman concludes. “Starting with O, The Oprah Magazine in 2000, we have launched Food Network Magazine, HGTV Magazine and Dr. Oz: The Good Life.”
Hearst UK put the rule to the test: they challenged the digital transformation and used the developments to strengthen their print repertoire. It shows that it is not an either-or decision when it comes to content but that one format can as well enrich the other.
Author: Jon Watkins. Written in collaboration with FIPP - the network for global media.