media update’s Nicole van Wyk chats to Steve Thobela about the ever-changing print media landscape and the effects of digitisation on the magazine industry.  

How does digital innovation complement the print industry?

Some industry players believe that digital, print and social media are wanted and needed by consumers, but are not viewed as mutually exclusive. Then there is the perception that society, in general, prefers to consume digital media, whether through online news or reading ebooks on devices.

However, the reality is that consumers are exposed to multiple mediums that serve different purposes. The evidence very much suggests that the rise of digital does not imply the demise of print.

For example, total spend on Internet advertising declined by 14.4% in 2017 when compared to 2016; this is in contrast to print advertising, which grew by 29.8% in the same period. 

Perhaps it is more apt to speak of a future where both print and online mediums co-exist as complementary mediums. 

The reality is that consumers are exposed to multiple mediums that serve different purposes.

What are QR codes and how do they enhance the magazine print and publishing sector?

QR codes, which traditionally were used as barcodes to keep track of inventory, hold great potential to unlock additional revenue streams for the publishing and printing industries. 

From getting customers to interact with the brand and product through added information, entering competitions or shopping and facilitating payments — they create a new world in which print is relevant to the audience, with digital complementing it. 

Some of our magazine clients are effectively using QR codes to generate new revenue streams. [They do this] by encouraging readers to shop directly from their printed copy by using their phones to scan the QR code from the magazine’s pages. The opportunities for different industries to use the QR code in printing and publishing really are endless.

As the world continues to evolve and shift to digital, how can the magazine industry ensure that it remains relevant?

The publishing industry is going through a period of change. The opportunity for innovators is to use digital technology to energise the industry. 

Statistics SA estimates that 22 million South Africans use smartphones, which is more than one-third of the population. The opportunity for the magazine industry to tap into this market and benefit from the digital boom is huge.

What is the 4IR and how it will affect the magazine industry?

The 4IR is a change in the way we do things, determined by technology. It has impacted most industries by causing a need to change by finding new ways of doing things to thrive. 

For the magazine industry, this revolution has caused it to think of ways in which digital technology can be used to its advantage. Magazines and other print-dependant businesses simply need to remain agile and innovative while playing close attention to consumer needs.

The shift towards becoming a digital society is very obvious. How can media publications convince readers that a digital experience is as valuable as a printed version of the same thing?

It is about integrating different mediums. As an example, book publishers are also using QR codes, creating a more engaging experience for the user that merges print and electronic technologies. Cookbook authors are using QR codes in their books to drive users to download video instructions via their smartphones.

Instead of capturing product information typically found on food and beverage products, the cookbook QR codes help to capture a sensory world and give the audience a more engaging and authentic experience.

Creating meaningful content that adds value to the life of the reader will always be relevant.

Will the digital transformation of the magazine industry drive publications to reimagine the way in which they view advertising and revenue streams?

Magazine publishers have to look at what they can do to future-proof themselves, such as becoming brands with a multi-channel focus, with content continuing to play a central role.

Successful magazines are able to deliver exceptional content and translate it to different audiences through multiple touchpoints. [This] includes both digital and print as [the magazine industry] can no longer afford to have a single-channel focus. 

The way audiences consume print and digital media is not about an and/or approach, which means that creating meaningful content that adds value to the life of the reader will always be relevant.     

Do you still add to your printed magazine collection or have you switched to the digital format? Let us know in the comments section below.

Want to stay up to date with the latest news? Subscribe to our newsletter.    

To gain a better understanding of digital innovation in the print industry, check out this article, Print versus digital: A Q&A with 'Mr Magazine™' himself.