Audience Engagement
3 mins read

Opinion: Why digitally native brands are turning to print

What do Netflix, Dollar Shave Club, Bumble and Airbnb all have in common? 

“They’re all digitally native brands who have used clever tech innovations to go direct to audiences and disrupt their sectors!” I hear you cry. And you are right. But these brands have even more in common than their status as pace-setting digital disruptors. All of the aforementioned brands have, in the last year, launched print magazines. 

For brands with digital tightly coded into their DNA, it might seem a surprising development. So why have these digitally native brands left their cyber-safe-space to create their own physical print magazines? 

There are a plethora of reasons but the primary motive behind this move is simple: these brands are turning to magazines to protect their own platforms and products. All of the aforementioned brands are facing serious competition from rivals who are following the trails they have blazed – and in the face of this competition, they need to find new ways to build loyalty and future-proof their businesses. Netflix for example, under threat from Amazon Prime and Disney Plus, are forecast to invest as much as $22.5bn in original content per year by 2022 in a bid to keep people using their service. 

But these digital brands are looking for additional ways to enhance their position stand out from the competition. These brands need to find a way to engage their audiences in a more intimate manner, and so they are turning to magazine media to help reinforce their primary content offer. For example, following the release of Dollar Shave Club’s print magazine Mel, CEO Michael Dubin said he saw the magazine as a way to “develop a deeper connection with its customer base, or member base in our case. We are building a sustainable alternative model to supporting a strong content brand”. 

Magazines offer an avenue for brands to engage with their audiences in environments where they can fully capture attention, and capitalise on the trust that in turn will drive traffic to their digital services.

At Magnetic, we explored the relationship between magazines and the attention they command in our “Attention Please” research programme, conducted with Bournemouth University and PHD. The research found how attention to the advertising in a magazine is nearly as high as attention to the editorial content, and it is welcomed, not avoided, playing a positive part of the experience for the reader.

Consumers also have a much stronger emotional connection with magazines. This is for two key reasons; firstly because magazines often offer consumers a high-quality link to the things they are passionate about, and secondly because audiences know they can trust the content. We conducted a study with Mediacom which found that 70 percent of audiences trusted content in magazine media, whereas just 30 percent trusted social media. 

Brands stand to benefit from this ‘halo effect’ of trust that is inspired by magazines as a medium. Take for example AirBnB; they face the challenge of convincing consumers to book another holiday or weekend away, and do it via their app. It makes sense then to turn to a medium which consumers will naturally expect it to be the expert, trust it and pay full attention when reading. 

These digital brands have made their success by pushing boundaries and finding innovative ways to deliver the best experience possible for their users. With the investment into their own print magazines, brands like Netflix and Bumble are showing our industry how it needs to stop thinking about digital and print in binary vision – it’s not one or the other. Magazines focus the attention of readers and inspire the trust of their audiences – and these attributes can play a decisive role in magnifying the influence of brands – no matter where they originated. 

Sue Todd, CEO, Magnetic


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