Samir Husni, better known in the world of media as Mr Magazine, is in South Africa as part of a Media24 conference to train and assist its magazine staff. Michael Bratt attended an event where Husni gave a talk about how he sees the current magazine landscape and what could happen in future.
Husni came into his presentation with a strong, clear message: Magazines are not dead! In fact, he says print is making a comeback and “It is time to bury our Print is Dead buddy”. Husni says the print industry has no one else to blame for falling circulation numbers other than itself as it keeps writing and publishing articles about its own demise and how digital is the future.
There are certain things that magazines need to do in order to stay relevant and successful, however. “There needs to be a shift from counting customers to customers who count. Every publication is worried about large readership but they should be focused on becoming experience makers whose innovations and creations must grab, keep and ensure a repeat,” Husni says.
Magazines can do this by ensuring the audience is always placed first and that there is a focus on consumers who count. He says a large portion of magazine audiences can be considered as trash audiences, people who won’t bother spending money with you, but will read or look at your content online.
Husni believes the biggest threat to media are those companies who do not brand themselves as media companies but are in the process of generating content. He cites Facebook, Google and Amazon as some examples. “They do not worry about journalistic standards or social responsibility, all they care about is reach and money.” He says this is not just a bad thing as this is what will keep magazines in business, “social responsibility and curation of news”.
Husni also touched on what impact digital is having on magazines. He compared the entrance of digital as a mistress who looked so attractive to media organisations that they just had to have an affair with her, cheating on their faithful wife, print. There is a belief that digital is the future and that magazines and other print mediums will soon become obsolete. Husni says that we must not kid ourselves into thinking that we do not live in a digital world. In fact he describes the situation as “isolated connectivity” as people interact with each other now from afar.
“Digital is not killing analog, and analog is not going to kill digital. They are living hand in hand and will continue to do so,” Husni believes. He says that this is another way magazines can continue to thrive, by leveraging their content through the use of digital. “Social media can be the friend of print.” However he does admit that digital is a real threat saying, “It’s really hard to retrain people to pay for what they are using.”
Husni gave some tips in order to help magazines succeed. He says that magazines and newspapers need to do more than simply report news, they need to add value and analysis, things which cannot be easily found online. He also believes that, “We need to be in the business of innovation and creation, not renovation.” He also pointed out that in today’s world advertisers are doing business with brands seen as trusted, who are normally first or second placed in their market. He also says journalism has gone beyond simply the five Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why) and the H (How) to WIIIFM, what is in it for me, to match the attitude of consumers.
Husni also explained that more and more new magazine titles are being created everyday as digital has had the effect of specialising society. He compares the landscape to a cafeteria, saying there is more choice for consumers depending on their interests, rather than a melting pot as it used to be. “We are going to see more magazines, the more specialised our society becomes. Who better to curate and represent that segmentation than magazines?”
Husni’s success tips
- Give the consumer immediate answers, look what is in here from me to you
- A good magazine is the one that gives predictive answers to the consumer’s questions
- Humanise the magazine by putting the consumer first
- Identify and work on 4 or 5 unique experiences that your magazine will offer
- Make your magazine cover like a soap opera with a cliff hanger ending previewing the next issue
- A magazine must create value rather than simply repeating news which consumers have already seen online
- Bring young, new blood into the industry
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