Print packs a powerful punch

Samir Husni, “Mr. Magazine,” espouses the benefits of magazines as part of a creative content marketing program.

BY James Meyers
Founder, President and CEO, Imagination

You can’t be in the content business or, more specifically, the business of creating print magazines, without having heard of “Mr. Magazine.”

Mr. Magazine, aka Samir Husni, Ph.D., is a man with a vision, a passion and a cause. He has dedicated his professional life to advancing the perceptions and relevance of magazines—print products in particular—in a digital age.

From the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, Husni strives to help millennial students, publishers, content marketers and others believe that print magazines still have a lot of life in them.

“We’re not in love with the platform,” Husni says of the center’s core premise. “To be in the media business, you have to be platform-agnostic as long as your audience is platform-agnostic. Whether you employ print, digital or events, [the medium] must be relevant to the audience, but [also its] own experience.”

Yet his primary love remains print, and he continues to celebrate the medium’s promise to deliver an engaging, if not addictive, experience—one that’s more robust, more tactile, more experiential than anything digital can achieve.

Not an either/or proposition

But comparing print and digital is wrongheaded. In fact, Husni believes that viewing the two through an either/or lens is just one of several missteps publishers have made in recent years.

“Digital was a seductress, and media companies fell victim to her,” he explains. “The first date turned into a long affair, and it’s taken them this long to see that digital and analog are, in fact, brother and sister."

"Digital was a seductress, and media companies fell victim to her. The first date turned into a long affair, and it’s taken them this long to see that digital and analog are, in fact, brother and sister."

Samir Husni

Those who have been raised in a digital environment expect nothing less than coexistence, Husni adds, pointing to a conversation he once had with his then-8-year-old grandson, who was holding an iPad in one hand and a hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in the other. “When I asked which of the two he liked best,” Husni says, “he responded, ‘Why do I have to choose?’ ”

This younger audience—and that thinking—are pushing print’s resurgence, he believes.

Late in 2015, the iconic Columbia Journalism Review declared print the “new ‘new media,’ ” citing Husni and his count of 204 new print magazines launched in 2015 as evidence of this shift in the winds. (The pace continues to quicken, with more than 70 new titles hitting the marketplace in January and February 2017 alone, according to Husni’s “Launch Monitor.”)

More than a generational thing

Boomers like Husni and me understand print’s allure—and why it’s the new, new thing. The tangibility, the dimensionality, the packaging, the format, the content and its presentation all make print compelling. To borrow from that CJR article: “Print is beautiful. It can’t notify you when a work email arrives, can’t be tweeted mid-sentence, and won’t die without a charger. Even better, it’s finite.”

Need proof? Husni points to the revamped Elle magazine, with its bigger format on heavier paper, bolder fonts, and page design and content that resonate with its audience of young, modern women—think stunning photography of tattooed models sporting elegant jewelry and a fresh take on “Ladies Who Lunch,” with artwork featuring young models of multiple ethnicities replacing Chanel-clad socialites of the 1950s and ’60s.

The print resurgence, Husni believes, is being driven by publishers’ and brands’ ability to engage all five senses—and to go beyond mere content presentation by creating experiences. The secret sauce? When the many facets that make print special come together to create an experience that’s truly addictive.

Replicating that elusive addictiveness factor will be Job No. 1 for those who create high-impact print experiences in the future. I know I’m not alone in looking forward to the challenge.

published: March 07, 2016

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