You won’t get your magazine between the consumer and her smartphone

Maga­zi­ne publis­hers should ack­now­ledge that every attempt to get into their cus­to­mers’ lives will fail unless it is based on under­stan­ding their cus­to­mers’ goals, needs and con­texts of media usa­ge. A recent examp­le: Publis­hers enhan­ce their print maga­zi­nes becau­se con­su­mers are not loo­king up from their smart­pho­nes in check­out lanes, cri­ti­cal­ly hur­ting sin­gle-copy sales. What cus­to­mer goals are they try­ing to satisfy? If publis­hers will not adopt to con­su­mers, they might end up as ano­t­her Kodak.

Ima­gi­ne this: You are a maga­zi­ne publis­her and you see sin­gle-copy sales are going down. Of cour­se, you noti­ced that a few years ago, and in the first half of 2012, the sli­de was almost 10% [1].  Time Inc. saw its flagship tit­le lose almost a fifth of its sin­gle-copy sales in the first half of 2012, adding to the cost pres­su­re that led to its shed­ding 8% of its  work­for­ce. This would not bother you, if your print adver­ti­sing busi­ness was healt­hy and print sub­scrip­ti­ons were up. But they are not.

So, this is some­thing you deci­de to work on and you ana­ly­se the situa­ti­on. You quick­ly find a major cau­se for the drop in sin­gle-copy sales: Con­su­mers who used to screen maga­zi­nes exhi­bi­ted at check­out lanes are now loo­king at and typ­ing away at their smart­pho­nes.

What’s your reaction?

A) You ack­now­ledge that sin­gle-copy sales are a lost batt­le and deci­de to adjust your cost base and invest in sel­ling more sub­scrip­ti­ons (which pro­bab­ly means check­out lanes will fea­ture more can­dy and less magazines).

B) You make your maga­zi­nes shi­nier (which pro­bab­ly means more naked skin, shrill colours and shor­ter big­ger head­lines) and print some QR codes on it to try and con­vey the impres­si­on that this is the best way to enter your web pre­sence: Buy­ing a maga­zi­ne and then scan­ning the QR code.

C) You use the space you ren­ted at check­out lanes in order to pro­mo­te yourself as a com­pa­ny worth con­si­de­ring for stay­ing up-to-date and enter­tain­ment in the digi­tal space.

Accord­ing to a recent Finan­cial Times arti­cle repor­ting on the topic, publis­hers are main­ly opting for opti­on B, as absurd as this may sound:

Publis­hers are try­ing to com­bat “mobi­le blin­ders” by jazz­ing up their print maga­zi­ne covers with atten­ti­on-grab­bing digi­tal fea­tures and pla­cing copies in dif­fe­rent are­as of a store. Cos­mo­po­li­tan put a digi­tal QR code on its Sep­tem­ber cover, temp­t­ing con­su­mers to scan the code each day for a sur­pri­se deal.

It’s com­for­ting to see that Germany’s big­gest jour­nal publis­her, Axel Sprin­ger, announ­ced a col­la­bo­ra­ti­on that seems to be a grown-up bet on digi­tal, col­la­bo­ra­ting with expe­ri­en­ced start­up inves­tor Plug and Play Tech Cen­ter to deve­lop and imple­ment digi­tal busi­ness models. Sin­ce they are alrea­dy pur­suing a qui­te suc­cess­ful digi­tal stra­te­gy, they will be able to tweak and add to their offe­ring in a way that gene­ra­tes com­pe­ti­ti­ve advan­ta­ge that will threa­ten other publis­hers’ busi­ness models to a degree that some of them might be tur­ned into a Kod­ak.

In a mar­ket with a high level of stra­te­gic uncer­tain­ty, com­pa­nies need to think about whe­re they want to reser­ve the right to play – ins­tead of bet­ting on a sin­gle pro­duct port­fo­lio that might gene­ra­te dimi­nis­hing returns, drai­ning the cash they nee­ded to inno­va­te and trans­form the com­pa­ny to acqui­re the necessa­ry skills to play in a «digi­ti­sed» market.

The best way to crea­te stra­te­gies and offe­rings for the «digi­ti­sed» mar­ket is, in our expe­ri­ence, to start with a deep under­stan­ding of mar­ket play­ers and cus­to­mers and find a posi­ti­on that gene­ra­tes com­pe­ti­ti­ve advan­ta­ge.  You can get an idea how we go about it down­loading our approach:

Down­load Stimmt’s approach: Using per­so­nas to crea­te stra­te­gies and offe­rings (PDF, 352 kB)





[1] Sin­gle-copy sales of the top 25 maga­zi­ne publis­hers in the US: Hea­vy los­ses, with a few exceptions.