Why print is the Father of the Holy Trinity

geoff hird

Publishers Australia chairman Geoff Hird still believes in print. He explains why

I believe in magazines.

In fact, I will go so far as to say, I believe in PRINT magazines.

So much so, that in the past two weeks I have launched a new one, and bought another.

It’s quite simple, really – both were well considered, well researched, business decisions.

In launching Technology Decisions into the print wasteland of IT media, we are definitely swimming upstream. However, recent research across our tech, engineering and science audiences showed us that print magazines are still a preferred delivery platform for their business-to-business information (over 50%).

While some may point to our closure of Voice+Data (11 issues) and the launch of Technology Decisions (7 issues) as a reduction of print frequency, the purchase of Australian Life Scientist (6 issues) from IDG, and a special (extra) expo edition of What’s New in Food Technology & Manufacturing will see Westwick-Farrow Media publish more print editions in 2013 than we did this year. We also have some new custom projects on the boil, and all feature a print magazine at the core.

However, despite popular opinion, the platform that publishers deliver their content on will not determine the ongoing viability of their business. As it has always been, the quality and value of their content, and how it meets the needs of their target audience, will…

I also believe in digital and mobile. Print, digital and mobile should form the Holy Trinity for magazine media companies in the land of fragmentation that we all now live in. Forsake any one of the three, and you risk losing your way.

Let’s call print the Father, digital the Son and mobile the Holy Spirit – the solid backbone, the potential saviour and the mysterious, unknown opportunity. Their strength is in their diversity, and the power that multi-channel offers to progressive magazine publishers.

Those who proclaim the death of print from their digital enclaves will restrict their reach, and their potential. As will those magazine publishers who ignore digital and/ or mobile. To ensure you reach as broad an audience as possible, we must embrace all platforms.

buggles video killed the radio starBack to the facts – every human being is different, and we all have our preferences, personality types and idiosyncrasies. Some still prefer cinema to TV, or radio to CD, and even (dare I say it) tabloids to tablets. Though it was a great tune, the Buggles got it wrong when they said Video Killed the Radio Star, and many are getting it wrong now in saying that digital will be the death of print.

In a business world dominated by a constant barrage of interruptive digital messages and media, the print magazine offers an escape. It gets the reader away from the distraction and allows them to consume the content on their own terms, interruption free. Surely this offers marketers a less cluttered platform to reach an engaged and targeted audience.

Savvy marketers are starting to wake up to the fact that if they want to zig while everyone else is zagging, magazines are a great option. Who would have thought a mainstream media channel would now be seen by some as ‘alternative’? Interesting times, indeed…

As we head into the second annual Magazine Week conference, it’s an exciting, challenging and opportunistic time for magazine media companies in Australia. I look forward to learning from and networking with my peers, and shouting from the mountain top that I BELIEVE IN MAGAZINES – in their many forms, permutations and platforms, one of which is, and will always be – print!.

  • Geoff Hird is Publisher at Westwick-Farrow Media and has over 22 years’ experience in B2B publishing. He has chaired magazine industry body Publishers Australia for the past five years.


  1. WD
    8 Nov 12
    11:02 am

  2. Good points. I worked in print mags and moved to digital over the past few years. Trust me, it’s just as tough in digital, even tougher to build an audience and make a buck etc. A magazine can easily survive on 5,000 (paid) readers, but a website you need at least 200,000 to be even remotely viable. A print product closes and all the doomsayers rattle the cage about paper’s death! But what of all the failed digital start-ups? They never get mentioned!

  3. Renai LeMay
    8 Nov 12
    11:16 am

  4. hey Geoff,

    Renai LeMay here — publisher of technology website Delimiter. Hope you’re well!

    I wish Westwick Farrow nothing but the best in its commercial endeavours. However, I have to say, I view your opinion that technology readers value the print medium as pretty absurd at this point. This category has been well-served for news and detailed feature articles by sites such as ZDNet for more than a decade at this point, and has flocked to next-generation platforms such as Delimiter as they have been built.

    Controlled circulation and the inability to track core metrics via print magazines has long masked the fact that there is very little reader engagement with the magazine form factor. In comparison, it’s easy to see the depth of online reader engagement with a quick visit to a site like Delimiter. We get thousands of comments every month, on subjects as mundane as mobile phones to those as complex as high-end IT management issues.

    I know that sites like Delimiter, with their high levels of reader engagement, will be around in five years. I would be very surprised indeed if the current crop of IT-related print magazines in Australia will still be publishing paper copies; and even the iPad model is very much yet unproven.

    Of course, it’s an open market, and competition is only good for everyone :)

    Kind regards,

    Renai LeMay
    Editor + Publisher, Delimiter

  5. B
    8 Nov 12
    11:20 am

  6. I think it’s time to promote ‘magazine media’. No longer print products, they have evolved into multi-platform brands. Many titles now have assets that span print, tablet, web, mobile, edm, social, events and more. They have well defined, loyal and engaged audiences and have created touch points to connect with them wherever they are.

    Content is a hot topic for marketers at the moment and publishers are experts at it. Do yourself a favour and chat to a magazine today.

    – Magazine employee

  7. Leon
    8 Nov 12
    11:47 am

  8. If your content doesn’t rank well on Google it may as well not exist.

  9. blaze
    8 Nov 12
    12:19 pm

  10. warren buffer has bought 66 community papers in the US

    does he know something we dont ?

  11. Geoff Hird
    8 Nov 12
    1:02 pm

  12. hey Renai,

    I look forward to sending you Vol 5, Issue 1 of Technology Decisions in October 2017. Multi-channel is the only way to go, Renai, as our research (and it was feedback from our IT and tech audience) showed us quite clearly that magazines are still important. For those who spend their whole day with interruptive devices, magazines still offer a unique opportunity to escape the clutter. And the only way any marketer can be sure of reaching all audience types, is to have coverage on all channels – and print is still very much one of those channels.

    And yes, all competiton is good, so all the best with your ongoing digital venture – you have some great content! Maybe you’d like ot expand your reach a little and run an item in our print mag some time?


  13. Renai LeMay
    8 Nov 12
    1:30 pm

  14. hey Geoff,

    “the only way any marketer can be sure of reaching all audience types, is to have coverage on all channels”

    I’m not convinced of the accuracy of that statement … as for running Delimiter content in print … I don’t think so. The audience reach is too small 😉



  15. Shamma
    8 Nov 12
    1:45 pm

  16. this demonstrates an issue here.

    print guy has a mature outlook, trying to positively tell a story

    digital arrogant guy comes in immediately, sh*t’s all over print guys op-ed and then comes back with smarmy condescending lines about how engaged his digital audience is and how the print competitor will be dead within 5 years. no class.

    when will some elements of the digital world learn that it’s tiring to constantly criticise print and broadcast media. especially when you probably don’t understand it.

  17. OtherAndrew
    8 Nov 12
    2:17 pm

  18. @Geoff, thanks for an interesting counterpoint to all the stuff we get to see these days. It resonates with me regarding a recent example where I subscribed to a print magazine.

    Flow Mountain Bike has just launched in Australia, with a two-prong strategy: a (beautifully produced) magazine for long-form content, and a website for news, reviews, etc. (http://flowmountainbike.com/). If you pick up a copy of their inaugural edition from your local bike shop, the rationale they give in the editor’s note in the opening pages is a great outlook on the ‘horses for courses’ approach to platform selection.

    FTR, I own an iPad and love reading SMH on it. But when it comes to reading magazine articles, I prefer reading them in print.

    Lastly, love your Holy Trinity analogy!

    (Disclaimer: I may be contributing to a future edition of Flow after recently approaching them about a story concept. No current commercial tie-in though)

  19. Carol
    8 Nov 12
    2:42 pm

  20. Shamma, so eloquently put. Class vs crass.

  21. Tony Teys
    8 Nov 12
    3:08 pm

  22. Good on you Geoff. As long as ‘Baby Boomers’ are around, Print will always be relevant. We just love ‘Touchy/Feely’ and escapism away from the ball and chain that is the computer. . . . is that why I spend so much time in the toilet?

  23. Tony Healy
    8 Nov 12
    3:40 pm

  24. @Shamma, I can see how Renai’s digital guy response might have come across as arrogant, but I don’t think it was meant to be.

    IT media started the migration to digital well before mainstream media, and industry practice suggests Geoff Hird’s claims are a bit unusual. Renai was just expressing a pretty common response.

    Good luck to Geoff if he makes it work.

  25. tv viewer
    8 Nov 12
    7:48 pm

  26. I might have missed the point of this article, but for what its worth, I like the Father, Son and Holy Spirit reference.

    I found this article being referenced on a blog site called Media Fusion (www.mediafusion.net.au). Good to see the divine is still a page turner!

    Any chance digital will one day die and be resurrected?

  27. Researcher
    8 Nov 12
    10:02 pm

  28. I am no ardent supporter of print media, but it looks like Geoff has actually done some research and asked the audience how they like to receive information and although it is a tech audience unsurprisingly a large segment of them still like it delivered via the magazine platform. He is not suggesting all of them or the vast majority.

    Unfortunately Rennai with his witty emoticons writes about things that suggest research and analytics (core metrics) but clearly has no real measures for reader engagement other than the fact that people make comments on the site (probably a surprisingly small core group certainly not quantified by Rennai). This seems pretty weak.

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting we can turn the clock back and put the genie back in the bottle but this continued insistence that different platforms (including legacy ones) won’t co-exist for a period of time seems unreasonable. All the smug emoticons and nudge nudge wink wink look at this sill old duffer tripe won’t wash, everyone know there is some truth in what is being said.

    I would suggest Rennai that if you want to shoot Geoff down you may need to come up with something a bit more concrete than this nebulous ‘engagement’ that you seem to have so much of.

    I would probably agree however that Geoff’s magazine may well not exist in 5 years time, but if I know anything about the product lifecycle for pure play online media there is a high probability that Delimiter won’t be in existence either.

  29. Bob
    9 Nov 12
    9:44 am

  30. I tend to go online when searching for information, and print when I need to relax. Unfortunately, the price of magazines means that it’s a rather expensive relaxation technique, so if I can’t get one for free, I tend to watch a DVD instead…

  31. B
    9 Nov 12
    10:08 am

  32. @researcher: well said! let the market (research) dictate the content and platform(s). this arrogant assumption that only one platform can work is rather naive. give them what they want and evolve when their needs do. if your business model becomes unsustainable, shut it down and start a new one. simple.

    @blaze: i worked at fairfax for a while and can tell you that rural press titles (and their websites) were rather decent earners. niche channels with niche audiences can be highly profitable. look at those companies representing a network of blogs or small websites. others represent hundreds of community radio stations. they know those small audiences are very loyal and valuable and they just need a network to create scale and profitability.

  33. Ngomen
    14 Nov 12
    8:00 am

  34. Not everything would be web based. My brother gave up computing because his eyes could not stand long hours in front of monitor. Plus, on the web, there are so many information, will there be an age of information overload? choice overload? and we get bored of it?