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Print at the Center of a Digital Content Strategy. Are You Mad?

Chief Content Officer Magazine

We started our latest press release on the launch of Chief Content Officer magazine (view issue here, subscribe here) with:

Print is Dead. Long live Print.

Darn right.

When we first announced the launch of CCO in print, a number of my colleagues literally thought I had gone mad. After all, you will not find a bigger proponent of digital content marketing than yours truly. And print is, well, print. It’s dead trees. It’s not 2.0…it’s more like .02.

But let me explain the method to the madness.

Over the last year I’ve been pounding on the virtual table about the importance of integrating print into the overall content marketing strategy. During that same time, many pundits, including content genius Jeff Jarvis, have called for the end of print magazines and the dead-tree ending move to digital.

And why not?  Print is more expensive. It requires a number of specialized skills that many companies don’t have (magazine design, circulation development, distribution/postal knowledge, etc.). It’s also hard to measure.

Channel Matters

Compare driving to work on the highway versus taking back roads.  Driving on the highway is busy.  The amount of activity from other cars to billboards to the sheer speed make it hard to concentrate at times.  Add in the fact that some people are tuning their iPods, Sirius/XM Satellites, Radios or trying to light a cigarette, and attention is scarce. I have many colleagues that make this drive to work every day.

A few of my other friends take the back roads. It’s more peaceful. They notice the houses.  If a squirrel or dog crosses in front of the car, they notice, and have time to stop or move out of the way. The speed limits keep the traffic to a manageable pace. Deep thoughts with Jack Handey type stuff.

This is how I think of the web versus print.  On the web, getting attention is a supreme challenge.  With literally millions of options, your content must be the best just to get a sniff. And, if they spend three minutes on your site, you’ll think you hit the jackpot.

With print, you see the following pattern:

  1. Where’s the money? Checks rule.
  2. Someone I know? Personal mail and cards are important.
  3. Where are the stories? Magazines and newsletters rise to the top.
  4. Do I own money? Bills get thrown to the side.
  5. Spam? This goes to the circular file.

This is the reason that, as long as there is a dedicated channel called the Postal Service that people pay attention to, do not forget print.

The postal service is a media channel that business people and consumers check every day, like clockwork.  Remember the good old days when you used to read every email you received because you only received five per day?  You even read the spam back then. Not any more.  Too much clutter.

Over the same time period, the amount of information going through the US Postal Service continues to decrease, even while they continue to deliver six days per week.  According to the US Postal Service, approximately 51 million pieces of mail were delivered during the 4th quarter of 2006.  During that same time period in 2010, the number is approximately 41 million, a decrease of 20%. Compare that with the amount of content available on the web, which currently stands at 20 billion indexed web pages not including social networking conversations.

Do you still get junk mail?  Of course. Just not as much as through other channels.

Get Answers on the Web, Ask Questions with Print

There is no doubt that we need valuable, compelling web content wherever our customers are at.  Our customers go to the web to get answers to their pain points, and we need to provide those answers to position ourselves as the industry thought leader and ultimately drive our business.

In print, our customers aren’t searching for specific answers.  They are looking to be challenged, and to engage in content that will get them to ask more questions. They are looking for what they don’t know yet.

Print and Digital Are Secretly Married

Yes, it’s true.  Print and digital have a secret, special relationship. Those that can harness the power of print and web integration will see magic happen.

Step 1: Open your customers’ minds to possibilities…to opportunities in print. Questions arise.

Step 2: Begin to answer those questions with specific, how-to web content.

To make this point, Bob Leonard, CEO of acsellerant sent me the following note last week:

“When I heard you were launching a print publication, I literally thought: “Has he lost his mind?” The Premiere Issue just came in the mail bundled w/ BtoB magazine. I opened it and started reading on the walk back from my mail box. I sat down and read the whole thing through, then carried it into my office so I could sync up with the various online links.

It is so well designed, so well written, so highly readable, and better integrated to the web than any other print pub I’ve ever seen. I understand now that you didn’t set out to just launch a print publication, you set out to launch the next evolution in print publications. And you achieved that goal.”

Needless to say, the team was flattered. How did we do it?  Check here for five key points, but in general…

  1. Every page has a call to action (short link or QR code)
  2. Longer case studies and articles have specific “how-to” follow up articles available on the web
  3. The print and the digital magazine version are different (NOT A REPLICA), with the digital formatted in landscape (for the iPad) and some additional pieces of content including this podcast with Ann Handley.
  4. Design matters

We (at the Content Marketing Institute) generate 99% of our content online with the help over over 50 of the brightest thought leaders on the planet. The 1% that isn’t online is this magazine. It’s the 1% that can’t be manipulated in any way after printing. It’s also the 1% that can be the center of our entire content marketing strategy. If you would have told me this two years ago I would have said you are crazy.  Now I think this is a huge opportunity for brands.

Some Results

We won’t have the print readership study done for a few issues yet, but here is what we know for sure.

  • Over 1,000 signups to receive the magazine in less than a week, including decision makers from IBM, Accenture, Sears, Wells Fargo, Cisco and more.
  • The average reader of the digital version of Chief Content Officer spends over six minutes with the magazine and views over 10 pages.
  • More than 10% spend at least 30 minutes reading the magazine.

Of course, this is just the first issue.  We have a long way to go to keep our content promise.  Hope is that more marketers see this magazine and consider leveraging print as part of their integrated content strategy (like our friends at LEGO).

Good luck!