22 April 2019 Business

Reverse publishing is new model for print's future

A white paper from Fipp and UPM points to the largely untapped potential of bringing online brands into the physical world through print.

The printed magazine or catalogue is far from dead according to a white paper published by Fipp, the international organisation for publishers, and Finnish paper giant UPM.

The Future of Media report points out that is not a case of either print or digital, but a case of digital plus print. And increasing numbers of digital brands are spawning their own print titles. This began with television spin off publications, the Oprah Winfrey magazine O being an example, but also Gardeners' World and others. And it is continuing into the digital age.

Established websites like Pret-a-Porter, AirBnB, All Recipes, even Facebook, have created printed versions of their digital brand, something that the report calls Reverse Publishing. “They are a beacon of light in print’s bright future,” it says. Not that print is finished.

The report highlights findings that in 2017 24.6 million people in the UK chose to read news brands each day and 36 million get a monthly magazine fix. German research has pointed out that because each printed newspaper is read on average by three people, it has a lower environmental impact than the equivalent website.

Publishers as well as readers depend on print. Publishers, while they have greater choices on how to deliver content and to interact with their audience, continue to derive 60-80% of their revenues from print.

And one of the key strengths that print has is that it is a once a month event that readers look forward to, where they can switch off from the digital pressure and enjoy a lean back experience.

More and more are discovering that the digital world has flaws. For readers this is both fake news and the sheer amount of information making it more difficult to access the content they want, while for publishers the prevalence of bots and ad fraud questions the statistics.

Away from publishing, the report underlines that print is effective too for retailers: seventy percent of consumers will keep a catalogue for at least a month, a third for more than a year. It prompts Ruud van den Berg, SVP of UPM Communication Paper’s magazines, merchants and office division, to comment: “Retailers have recognised that weekly advertising needs to be on the kitchen table.”

By Gareth Ward

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