Quality magazines still strong: DMA Circulation Day keynote

Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time magazine, said print need not indicate obsolescence in today’s digital world, during a keynote address at the DMA’s Circulation Day today in New York.

Stengel’s speech, The Reinvention of Time, centered around the importance of quality design and accessible, in-depth writing. Since returning to the Time staff a year and a half ago, Stengel has focused on redesigning and building the brand. The magazine was remade to have a “cleaner” and more quality look, with thicker pages and lush photography.

Design is important to a magazine’s success because the look is what initially grabs newsstand buyers. Stengel called Time’s covers the magazine’s “single greatest marketing tool every week.”

“Magazines have to become more premium products,” Stengel insisted. “They have to be doing things other media cannot do. They need more beautiful photography, more beautiful paper. They need things you can’t see on television, things only a magazine can do, and they have to do it each week so people get addicted.”

Stengel also said that a magazine and its Web site must serve as complementary halves, focused on different audiences. Driving magazine readers to the Web, and vice versa, may actually cut down on a magazine’s potential audience.

“If you have 100% overlap between print and online, that’s a disaster,” he said. “Look at it as two separate audiences, where you can grow brand and perception of the brand online, and it doesn’t mean the print product will go away. They don’t cancel each other out.”

Print and online complement each other because news can break online, and then it can be analyzed in print, Stengel concluded. The in-depth coverage is what makes readers invest in a print product, even when they can get news online for free.

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