Why print’s ability to engage is driving physical magazine launches

By Sander Sondaal, Director Commercial Print Sales, Ricoh Graphic Communications, Ricoh Europe

Parkrun has launched a free magazine citing the mental health benefits of being away from screens. The organisation that stages free weekly community five kilometre runs all around the world said: ‘In an increasingly digital world, time away from screens to consume information at your own pace is important for mental health. Bringing words to life on paper gives them the space to be enjoyed in any surroundings, at any speed and then passed on for others to enjoy, anytime and anywhere.’

It is this interactivity and engaging of the senses, which only print can achieve, that is driving demand.

Maria Kivimaa, who came up with the concept of Decent, a new niche British men’s magazine, agrees. She says: ‘People are sitting on their computers way too much and you don’t get the same emotional reaction that you would get from a printed, tangible thing. It’s better to be a print magazine. The visual storytelling doesn’t come across the same when you are online.’

Andrea Casati, editorial director of new launch Overseas, which examines the influence of basketball on cultures outside America, comments: ‘If done with passion and research, print magazines are one of the greatest and most irreplicable inventions ever: the touch, the smell; that feeling of creating something that cannot be edited are just fascinating.’ 

Other exciting launches in the last 12 months include a Marks and Spencer’s bi-monthly food magazine to replace its quarterly Fresh magazine, a British version of Rolling Stone and The Continental Literary Magazine – a niche quarterly publication established in Hungary by writer Sándor Jászberényi. There is also the new print version of online magazine Hyper & Hyper. It spotlights urban living, design and the creative industries in central and eastern Europe.

They are not alone. British insights agency Wessenden Marketing, reported there were 163 new titles launched in the country in 2021, up 44% on the previous year. The partwork market also recorded a three year record number of launches reaching shelves in the past 12 months.

Last year in Germany a total of 1 305 popular magazine titles were published compared to 1 048 titles in 1997. In the American market there were 122 print launches last year, more than double that for 2020.

Wessenden reported that most new publications are niche oriented and low frequency. In fact, the number of copies distributed by new magazines at launch dropped 22% year on year, to an average of 8 400 copies, while the average cover price rose by more than 10% to £4.52.

They relied on circulation revenue rather than advertising revenue so demanded a high cover price. They often used higher quality papers and finishes to position themselves as a premium product. The Continental Literary Magazine, for example, looks like a high end title, has a circulation of just 5 500 across Europe and America and costs $19.90 an issue.

This is where digital printing can help publishers achieve commercial success.  It efficiently and cost effectively delivers high quality results, for runs of different lengths, on a wide range of media. It can also harness Digital Print Enhancement (DPE) to create striking results that almost jump off the page. DPE technology is increasingly relevant as short runs become more commonplace in the magazine publishing arena. It can add impact and drama to short run publications and can be surprisingly cost effective. It enables an enhanced level of production creativity that helps sell magazines, and offers flexibility for production and efficiency benefits too. 

Print magazines are evolving, along with their business models, to become curated, niche products and digital production technology is perfectly placed to support their production in a creative and versatile way.