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As the famous phrase goes: ‘The only constant in life is change’. And my industry of marketing and PR is a continued demonstration of that point, more than many others.

The age of social media and our collective shift onto smart, handheld devices has changed the news landscape irreversibly. Some of the UK’s biggest newspaper houses, in the wake of declining physical sales, have struggled to transform themselves into profitable digital publishing bodies able to fill the income shortfall. Others who have successfully pivoted, have ceased their printed publications altogether. 

However, the national newspapers do not represent every sector and reports of the death of print media have been greatly exaggerated. People still like a physical representation of what they are consuming, and this trend is growing. Kindle readers were supposed to be the end of the physical book. Online streaming services were predicted to be the same for physical format music. Yet, physical book sales recovered and have seen off the eBook revolution. Vinyl records continue to see soaring sales.

The USP of physical formats is their tactile nature. It just means something to be able to hold a tangible product in your hands. 

Print magazines continue to thrive amidst a digital world

Take magazines, for example. Despite the crippling effects of the COVID pandemic, Forbes reported that 60 new magazines were launched in 2020 in the US alone. 

In its latest figures for monthly magazine reach, PAMCo (producer of readership estimates),  puts print media at 20,216 against 13,730 for desktop and 36,437 for mobile phones/tablets. It reports that some 23 million British adults consume a magazine each month. 

Improved printing technologies have gifted the magazine sector with higher quality products without compromising on cost and efficiency. People still have an emotional tie to something they can hold in their hands rather than extract from the online information mountain. And nowhere is this stronger than in industry.

Print media remains a valuable tool for the b2b sector

For the business-to-business sector, the advantage of physical media is that it stands out from the infinite-seeming online provision. The internet, whilst democratising information, has also led to the problem of information overload, search engine optimisation arms wars, and the difficulty of standing out from the crowd. Also, advertising on digital platforms constantly changes with each click. 

Coverage in a printed magazine – whether paid for or through editorial – offers a degree of permanence, or at least longevity which is sometimes lacking online. These magazines can be easily shared amongst teams, as useful resources either for chefs in the staff room or for operations staff in the office. There is also the added benefit of avoiding the negative health implications of staring at a screen for too long. 

The future of media consumption

Of course, it needn’t be one or the other. One look at the foodservice media landscape shows that print and digital formats can work together and their attributes can be complementary rather than competitive. Such choices will often depend on circumstance as much as personal preference. 

However, one thing is certain as far as I’m concerned. Printed media will continue to be a precious resource in the catering and food sector, as it will for any other industry. Don’t start sounding the death knell for magazines just yet.

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