By Keith J. Kelly- NY Post
March 4, 2014
Print, long bashed as a relic of a bygone era, seems to be making a comeback with an unlikely bunch of backers — digital-content
companies.Unencumbered by the old legacy structures that boosted ad-rate bases with low-quality subscriptions, the new digital-to-print
movement for the most part seems to be narrowly focused in specialized niches.
“Many print assets have enormous brand equity, and these have been grossly underleveraged in digital,” said Joe Mohen, a digitalmedia
executive who has looked at a number of print brands in recent years.
“However, what is entirely new is the phenomenon of exploiting digital-only brand equity in print,” Mohen said. “This could turn
out to be successful, but the management team really needs to know exactly what it is doing in order for that to work.”
Much was made of last year’s relaunch of Domino, the much-beloved print magazine that Condé Nast folded in 2009.
When it was brought back to life last year, much of the attention focused on its Web presence and the fact that it had venturecapital
backers and only a partial ownership by Condé Nast.
The new company is called Domino Media Group.
This week, the second print edition since the relaunch is hitting newsstands. And its chief revenue officer, Beth Brenner, concedes
that 90 percent of the revenue is still coming from print.
“Despite the fact that everyone wrote about our shiny new penny that was our digital side, we are still making a big investment in
print,” Brenner said.
In recent weeks, Politico has introduced a small quarterly magazine, and Capital New York last week mailed out its first print
version. Both are small circulation.
Gone are the days when major publishers pushed out expensive launches and raced to get to 1 million circulation.
Domino, for instance, had a circ of more than 800,000 when it folded five years ago. Now it distributes only 200,000 copies to
newsstands and has only just begun soliciting paid subscriptions.
Advertisers seem to like the new version. The latest has 36 advertisers.
“They want to see how their message can work across all platforms,” said Brenner, who was also the publisher at Condé. “But print
is not the finish line. It is the starting line. And I don’t think print can be a mass vehicle.”
That might come as something of a shock to her old Condé Nast colleagues, who still sell lots of annual subscriptions on an oldschool
model where most of the subs are priced under $20 and don’t even offset the cost of mailing.
The attraction of smaller-circ is not lost on Jim Impoco, the new editor in chief of Newsweek, which on Friday relaunches a print
edition of the magazine that Barry Diller and Tina Brown blew about $40 million on last year at IAC/InterActiveCorp before selling
it to small digital publisher, IBT Media.
Since the sale, it has survived as a Web-only publication — with some overseas licensees still cranking out a print foreign edition.
Impoco insists the return to print is not just a vanity play or a publicity stunt.
“The problem was everyone was playing with the old model,” he said. “They had a rate base, and everyone tried to jack it up as high
as you could so you could get more for the advertising. It’s the same way some of the content bombs in digital chase clicks.”
Newsweek will only distribute 60,000 to 70,000 copies. It will only go to newsstands, and Impoco insists it will be profitable.
Old Newsweek once boasted a circ of more than 3 million.
“I think we are going to be making 80 percent of our revenue from print by the end of next year,” he said.
Jason Binn, an entrepreneur who sold Niche Media in 2006, launched Du Jour Media two years ago and was one of the first
converts to the new print playbook.
Binn worked with Gilt Groupe and initially expected his new company would offer only a digital-only publication. But when he
launched two years ago, he added 250,000 print copies — distributed quarterly to high-income buyers — in addition to the
monthly PDF version.
He says he expects an upcoming BPA audit to show he has 2 million “opt in” subscribers from the print and digital side.
“We were profitable within the first six months of launching,” Binn said.
Perhaps the biggest digital-to-print success story is Allrecipes.com, which was founded 15 years ago and was sold by financially
ailing Reader’s Digest to Meredith Corp. two years ago for $175 million.
Last year, Meredith launched it as a print edition: Allrecipes.com, the magazine. Print revenue has a long way to go before it can
catch up to digital ad revenue, based on its status as the top food site, with 22 million unique visitors in the US.