Updated Apr 9, 2024 - Business

Print revival: Magazines make surprise comeback as marketing tool


Nylon's April 2024 edition, courtesy of BDG Media. Photo: Domen & Van de Velde

Nylon, the 25-year-old fashion outlet, will release its first physical magazine this month since stopping print editions and becoming a digital-only publication in 2017, executives told Axios.

Why it matters: The move is part of a larger revival of print as a marketing tool and potential advertising opportunity amid an otherwise grim digital ad outlook for publishers.

Zoom in: The print release is timed to the 25th anniversary of the storied fashion magazine. The music-themed issue coincides with its annual "Nylon House" experience at the Coachella music festival this weekend.

  • "Nylon is a brand that was born in print, and it has been our goal to return it to that format since we acquired it in 2019," said Emma Rosenblum, chief content officer for Nylon's parent company, BDG Media.
  • BDG Media has no current plans to release print magazines for its other brands, but it does plan to print more Nylon editions to capitalize on the marketing and advertising potential.
  • The company intends to release biannual issues of the magazine moving forward, with the next issue timed for the fall.

Between the lines: Amid a broader digital advertising slowdown, more publishers are eyeing print as a way to attract bigger brand advertisers with high-impact alignments.

  • Sherwood Media, a new media company backed by retail trading platform Robinhood, plans to launch a print magazine in the second half of the year. Joshua Topolsky, who is building the new outlet, told Axios there has been a lot of advertiser interest in print.
  • "Advertising sales in our first print issue greatly exceeded our goal and puts us in a great position for the next edition," said BDG Media CEO Bryan Goldberg.

The big picture: A slew of legacy publications have returned to print or reinforced their commitment to the medium under new ownership over the past year.

  • Complex's new owners NTWRK plan to relaunch its flagship magazine as a way to drive brand awareness and engagement in the next year.
  • Swimming World stopped print editions in 2022. But earlier this year, new owners announced their acquisition of the 64-year-old magazine brand and the return of print with a 76-page issue.
  • Sports Illustrated will continue print publishing under Minute Media, after its previous owners said it would cease those operations.
  • Saveur, the 30-year-old food magazine, brought back print this year after discontinuing it in 2020. Longtime editor Kat Craddock bought the publication from Recurrent last year.
  • Ebony published a fall print issue celebrating 50 years of hip-hop after suspending print in 2019.

Yes, but: The reemergence of print as specialty magazines means that the published editions are often larger, glossier and less frequent — resembling a coffee table book rather than what one would traditionally find on a magazine stand.

  • "A tactile, large-format and high-quality magazine is the ideal way to experience exclusive celebrity photo shoots, cutting-edge fashion, and beauty, party scenes and profiles of the coolest musicians and DJs," Rosenblum said.

Efforts to revitalize print won't offset the overall outlook for the U.S. consumer magazine industry, which shrunk by more than 20% between 2017 and 2022, per PwC data.

  • And even with some expanded advertising opportunities, many publishers see magazine experiments as marketing plays, not profit drivers.

State of play: As readers and ad dollars shifted to websites and social media, many legacy magazines have stopped or scaled back on print publications.

  • Condé Nast-owned outlets Self, Teen Vogue and Glamour announced the end of regular print runs in 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively.
  • Dotdash Meredith cut the print editions of six magazines at once in early 2022 — Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, EatingWell, Health, Parents, and People en Español.
  • Hearst decreased the cadence of publications like O, The Oprah Magazine and several other brands, per WWD.

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