case for print

Why now is the best time to start a custom magazine

In Content Strategy by Rob Johnson3 Comments


Now is a really good time to think about publishing your own custom magazine, because print is dead.

Magazines have been dying in Australia for a while. Top Gear Australia closed last month. The month before it was Zoo Weekly. Remember Grazia, The Bulletin, FHM, Ralph, Madison, Monument, and Notebook? Magazines are dying everywhere.

The publishers of these dead magazines have decided they are not sustainable businesses. But those magazines still had loyal readers. Just not enough for the traditional publisher’s business model.


How a custom magazine makes money

Publisher’s business models are based on three revenue sources—newsstand sales, advertising sales and subscriptions. But if you start a custom magazine for your business, you have a completely different source of revenue, which is your products or services. That fourth revenue stream is the advantage you have over publishers.

Have a flick through your favourite magazine. See any ads for cars? Or airlines? Or anything really expensive? The reason the advertisers are there is because the profit they will get from expected sales to this audience far outweigh the cost of the ad.

If those advertisers were also the publishers, you can guess at the advantage they suddenly have over any competitors. They own the product AND the channel to market.

That’s an advantage you cannot get if you’re relying on your website, or on social media, as the primary means of reaching your customers.

Because there is one major problem with your website and with social media.


Competing for digital attention

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk’s says that “If everyone else is doing it in business … Look the other way”. Right now, everyone is looking at digital marketing products. It makes sense. We’re all surfing Facebook and the web on our smartphones at every chance we get.

But that also means there’s a lot of noise around any digital presence you may have. In fact, respected media analyst Michael Wolf recently explained how much noise in a speech to The Wall Street Journal’s annual conference. Some of the stats that came out of that:

  •  79 per cent of people’s mobile time is spent on five apps
  • 44 per cent of web surfing time of time is spent on five websites

And some of the most popular sites on the web command less than a minute of the average users time each day. If folk are only giving 36 seconds a day to BuzzFeed, how much will they devote to your site?


Rusted-on loyalty

But just say, for the sake of argument, that folk did spend as much time on your website as they do on BuzzFeed. A whole 36 seconds. Would you prefer that, or would you like your customers to spend 40 minutes interacting with your content?

According to the Custom Report by Australia Post, that’s how long people spend reading custom magazines. The same report found

  • 90 per cent of readers believe their magazine’s content is relevant to the brand
  • 87 per cent also believe it is relevant to them as a reader
  • 90 per cent find their magazines to be a good source of information
  • 82 per cent enjoy the reading experience

Significantly, custom magazines are considered to be the most credible medium for reporting information about a brand or organisation. The research also found that more than half the readers are driven to a brand’s website by the magazine.


What’s your content strategy?

Why is that important? Well, look at what content marketers want to achieve from their content. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute and ADMA last year, 87 per cent of content marketers cite engagement as an important goal for their content marketing, followed by brand awareness (85 per cent), lead generation (79 per cent) and loyalty (78 per cent).

But the primary metric that they use to measure the success of their content marketing is website traffic (60 per cent). They don’t even seem to care about how much time that traffic spends on your site—only 38 per cent say time-on-site is important.

The most popular tactics included social media, blogs, events, videos, research reports and so on.

Other tactics are less in favour. They include print magazines (43 per cent), digital magazines (32 per cent), books and e-books (both around the 24-to-28 per cent mark) and podcasts (22 per cent).

So these tactics can potentially get cut-through. Simply because there’s less competition.

Now look back at that custom magazine research. Once you have a magazine that your customers trust, what’s that likely to do for your future sales figures?

Half the magazine readers surveyed by Australia Post said they used the ads in the custom magazine as a point of reference when shopping around. A bit over half (53 per cent) said they looked for a product or service as a result of reading the magazine. And three quarters said they paid attention to the ads in the magazine.

As a content marketing tactic, that’s pretty compelling.

Print is dead. Long live print.


What to do next

Print is powerful but it also costs. Before you jump into things, you should know about how to prepare for some of the more expensive mistakes you can make if you’re doing a print publication.

And if you want more articles like this, why not sign up to our newsletter? It’s a monthly email with three original articles on either content marketing, content strategy or content production. Feel free to use them to make your content, and your content marketing, better and more effective than ever before!

Finally, if you disagree with anything I’ve said here, please feel free to leave a comment. We do read them and comment back, and I’m more than happy to discuss it with you.


  1. Hi Rob, couldn’t agree more!

    Another statistic to support print in content marketing more generally comes from the CMI / ADMA report on Content Marketing in Australia. (

    ‘The most effective Australian marketers are much more likely to say print or other offline promotion is effective when compared with the total sample (63% vs 42%).’

    But while custom magazines are getting attention (thanks Uber, amongst others), there are other print formats which work for content marketing. See the Xpadite website for some of our ideas.

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