Are Employee Magazines Dead? Here’s Why Print Isn’t Past It
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past ten years, you will have heard the doomsayers and seen the facts. Recent years have proved deathly for magazine and newspaper circulation figures and we’ve all been told that digital is the only way to go – but is print really dead?
It seems that in some areas print lives on and is even showing signs of growth. Some magazines are seeing a resurgence in popularity in the wider world and I believe that the reasons for this pocketed growth are the same reasons why you should put print at the forefront of your internal communications strategy.
Many periodicals have closed their costly print versions in favour of a digital replacement and the same has happened in internal communications – print has fallen off the agenda making way for email, intranets, video and social comms. But consider this… a less crowded marketplace enables the best to shine through. A well-placed piece of print comms will get noticed and make an impact.
Print is king for engaging the reader’s full attention. Here’s something we all know – people still find it harder to read on screen. Those who do read on screen tend to scan content and stop reading earlier. If you have an important message to get across, relying on digital alone is foolish.
In a world where we’re being forced to sort the wheat from the chaff ourselves due to the plethora of information available to us, a print product is wonderfully constrained by its physicality. It can’t go on indefinitely (unlike a web article), its author has earned a right to be there, it has been through rigorous commissioning, writing, proofing and editing processes – and has made it to print in this ‘perfect’ state. It has been created with its reader in mind. You are special.
Professionals who are experienced and skilled in their trade design print products. They know how to draw in a reader with a headline or a caption. They know which picture will interest you most. They fiddle with typeface and point size until dawn. Colour palettes, illustrations, page furniture and white space are honed to perfection. They know what you want to read and see. Something in print is a special thing.
The printed publication is infinitely readable, transportable, rollable and foldable. Yes, it’s costly. Yes, it has long production lead times. But it works.
As I read recently by Eric Jensen, Editor of recently launched The Saturday Paper: “Nothing has effectively replaced the beauty of holding a paper at the weekend, or of reading a long story in one. When it comes to forming habits, nothing competes with the predictability of a print cycle and the physical act of turning pages. Even in their weakened state, stories in newspapers have greater impact than stories that appear only online.”
Teams on hobbyist mags have known this for years. No only do readers await the new issue with bated breath, they also store up dozens of old issues on a sacred shelf to refer back to. In contrast to the total and relentless transience of the digital world, the messages in a print production are here to stay. They exist – they are in print. So whether you’re communicating essential business change, restructuring, company vision, employee awards, or how-to documents, get it down on paper.
How many words can you read on a computer screen before you start drifting off or your eyes start burning from the inside out? Even though we know it’s bad to print out what you’re reading, let’s face it: it’s a labour of love to read long-form text on anything apart from paper. Think of your reader and put your meaty comms in print.
“There is something about having that large expanse of real estate in your lap, something about the [print] format, that is extremely satisfying,” says Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired and recent self-publisher of Cool Tools, a print title that has outsold all expectations. “Having many different things you may be interested in on a page, as opposed to a single thing surrounded by ads as it is on the web, leads to the formation of different connections and leads to a different experience,” he told the New York Times recently.
Here’s something we all strive for in internal communications: authority. And there is something about print that gives your communication a sense of legitimacy. Is it the money spent, the time it has taken to create, the fact it exists in a very physical sense? Whatever, your important messages and your opinions will gain credence from print.
It begs to be touched and loved. The paper feels gorgeous and the text could have been written only for you. A feeling of belonging that can be powerful and effective when communicating with employees comes from a high-quality piece of print publishing.
Where magazines are growing in the wider world is with premium, possibly less frequent products. Here’s an extract I read recently in The Observer by John O’Reilly: “A visit to any of the larger bookshops – Foyle’s in London, or independent shops such as Colours May Vary in Leeds, Material in east London – will reveal an array of beautifully constructed print objects. Magazines such as Article, Kinfolk and the Green Soccer Journal have production, design and editorial philosophies that re-imagine our experience of magazines.”
Make your print products beautiful, aspirational, satisfying and edited. Invest in them but make them irregular and special. Employees will appreciate the ‘club’ they belong to, and congratulate themselves for being a part of it.
BIOGRAPHY – Rachel Ifans
Rachel Ifans is a very experienced print and digital journalist, magazine editor and internal communications manager. She has recently started her own company which specialises in creative communications and is currently working for Travis Perkins Plc, Sawday’s and some smaller organisations and charities. Please contact her on email@example.com for consultancy and project work, however large or small.
“Here’s something we all strive for in internal communications: authority. And there is something about print that gives your communication a sense of legitimacy.”