The launch of Quartz in 2012 signaled a significant development for one particular media sector. Here was a new business media brand competing with the Financial Times and The Economist, plus Forbes, Fortune, Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek and the like. It was international in scope and designed for people who travel for business frequently and are affluent or wealthy.
The difference between Quartz and all those other brands is that Quartz is digital only. Why is that significant? Because before the high-profile example of Quartz, media brands aimed at high net-worth people were one area in which print media is extremely resilient.
This is a characteristic worth discussing. If the macro trend is toward the decline of print media—especially newspapers, an industry in a state of collapse—we sometimes forget that print is thriving in certain environments and markets.
This includes regional-magazine brands, and other categories as well—fashion comes to mind—as well as the affluent business-magazine category mentioned above. At the American Magazine Media Conference last month, I was struck by how the CEOs of three of the Big Four—Hearst, Condé Nast and Meredith—were so defiantly bullish on the value of print. (CEO Joe Ripp of Time Inc. has been pushing hard in a digital direction in the nearly two years since Time Inc. went public.)
The point is that the macro narrative for print media is quite probably inadequate to the actual situation. Print is not dead. Print remains strong. And by saying that, it doesn’t make me some hidebound print native who’s refusing to change with the times.
In the regional market, I’ve had executives tell me directly that they’d devote resources to digital if they could only find a way to monetize it. I’ve had others say that they have had to make bets—that among print, digital and live events, they could only choose two. Digital was not chosen. Adam Japko, CEO of Esteem Media, publisher of New England Home and Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, told me recently that his local luxury design magazines are growing in print—and thump when they hit a table. “We have conferences for visual marketing and design blogging,” he said. “We’ve launched trips. We’re doing a wine and design trip to Italy. I couldn’t do any of those things without the magazines.”
Just this week, news about three regional/high-net-worth print magazines caught my eye. Bloomberg Pursuits announced that it was increasing its frequency to six from four. The Economist announced it was relaunching its nine-year-old Intelligent Life luxury lifestyle print magazine with a new name, 1843, and a six-times frequency. And most remarkable of all, Modern Luxury, the regional luxe specialist, is rolling out Silicon Valley this month.
Silicon Valley—the print magazine—is ironic. It’s probably not fair to use it as a test case for the resilience of print. I don’t doubt that there’s a luxury advertising market trying to reach thousands of young, rich tech entrepreneurs. But I simply can’t help but be skeptical about people who pride themselves on inventing (and adopting) things that no one thought of before, gravitating on a bimonthly basis around a print magazine dedicated to their peers, their social lives, their parties and their lifestyles.
If Silicon Valley doesn’t succeed, it shouldn’t be read as a sign that print is dead.
Meanwhile, back at Quartz, the talk is that it’s on the block.