Last week, publisher Hearst Magazines announced that it is making a multimillion-dollar investment to enhance the quality of its print magazines. The Premium Print project will include improvements across its portfolio of more than 25 brands. Among the changes readers can expect to see are larger formats, higher quality paper and a higher percentage of editorial copy compared to ads.
“Our magazines are at the heart of our brands and our business, the foundation of our editorial mission and vision,” said Debi Chirichella, acting president of Hearst Magazines, in the September 24 announcement. “For the benefit of our audiences and our marketing partners, we’re focused on producing the highest quality print products and providing an outstanding content experience that is engaging on every level.”
The publisher, who reaches an estimated 165 million print and digital readers each month, has already made changes to House Beautiful with higher quality paper, and to Good Housekeeping which also includes better and 10% more editorial. Starting in 2021, Harper’s Bazaar, Road & Track and ELLE will get a higher ratio of editorial to advertising and larger trim sizes. Also next year, Hearst Magazines will launch a quarterly publication called Delish.
A tactile experience
“Magazines are a tactile experience, and quality production is important to our readers, our creators and the marketplace. There’s no substitute for a beautiful full-page image, whether it’s a fabulous kitchen, an interesting celebrity, a craft project or the season’s accessory,” said Kate Lewis, chief content officer of Hearst Magazines.
“Millions of readers turn to our print magazines to learn, to take action, to escape and to expand their worlds. Combined with rigorous storytelling we do on all digital platforms, we provide a 360 content experience for our audience,” Lewis added.
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Membership and paywall program
Investments in the company’s print products are possible because of the recent implementation of a membership and paywall program for some of its magazines including Bicycling, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health, Popular Mechanics, Road & Track, Runner’s World and Women’s Health. This program helps generate recurring revenue for Hearst Magazines through subscriptions as well as sales of branded products as well as affiliate and event revenue.
“We are experimenting and making great strides by activating our digital channels to sell products, including print and digital subscriptions,” explained Chirichella. “Our strategy to invest in digital growth while maintaining the strength, differentiation and high quality of our print products, along with this new investment, paves the path to our future.”
As an avid magazine reader, I was thrilled to read this news. While I do visit magazine websites occasionally, nothing can replace the look and feel of a magazine – the articles, imagery, even the ads are a very different experience in print, even if much of the content is the same.
Much like newspapers, magazines have shrunk in size and print frequency and schedules have changed. I grew up reading and trading Seventeen and Tiger Beat magazines with my girlfriends, and it is not the same experience online. When visiting a magazine website, you see what the publishers and advertisers want you to see, and you may miss content that you aren’t specifically looking for. In a print magazine, or newspaper for that matter, there are more opportunities and content to explore and discover.
Improving the paper quality and the print experience is a great move for Hearst Magazines. It will help retain loyal readers who are looking for a good reason to renew their subscriptions as other print products dwindle. For example, the O, The Oprah Magazine is going digital after its December 2020 issue. While they will print four issues per year starting in 2021, I will miss seeing Oprah in my mailbox. I am glad Hearst is looking past that to cater to the needs of different audiences.