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Print futures: 5 minutes with… Michael Warner

There has been much focus on digital over the past twelve months, but print remains an important medium for many publishers. We grab five minutes with Michael Warner of Warners Midlands Printers to discuss the outlook for print.

By Michael Warner

Print futures: 5 minutes with… Michael Warner

Q: In a world of digital transformation, why does print remain an important medium for publishers?

A: As mediums of communication, I think there is a superb synergy when print and digital are used together. When there is greater choice in how we can consume our media, readers of all ages and demographics can engage with publishers across multiple touchpoints. In this way, it is possible to engage with a broader audience too.

Interestingly, I think it is the environmental credentials and physical nature of print that make it so crucial in the digital world. The ability to have a one-on-one interaction with your reader with no pop-ups or noise from unwanted sources can significantly strengthen the emotional connection with the title. In a time of digital oversaturation, it is a wonderful luxury for consumers to have a choice. Coupled with a growing trend societally that seems to be placing a greater onus on ethics and environmental sustainability, print becomes much more relevant than some people may think.

Q: With environmental issues increasingly to the fore, what can printers and publishers do to improve the sustainability of magazines?

A: The most significant step is to fully understand the papers we use as they are the magazine's biggest physical consideration. There are many misconceptions about paper, and there is excellent work by organisations like Two Sides helping to challenge these. By understanding the product and the supply chain more, publishers can be more transparent with their audiences, and there are, in my opinion, some "easy wins" straight off the bat.

Ultimately, there are many opinions regarding environmental sustainability, and publishers have to do what they believe is right for them and their audience based on feedback and their values. Printers need to be able to understand that there is not a one size fits all approach and work with the publisher individually to see what is available and possible to implement to help them address these concerns.

Q: What print innovation are you seeing from imaginative publishers?

A: I have been impressed to see how, even in challenging times, publishers create a strong community both on and offline through how they are using their content.

Much of the innovation that I have been impressed with is more than just the aesthetics of the title or having “freebies” on the covers. Better measurement and analytics have led to more and more scientific questions being asked alongside traditional aesthetic ones. There is a greater emphasis on feedback and understanding their readers and shaping the content to match across multiple channels. From this data, publishers have been able to adapt their strategies to achieve some fantastic results.

Community engagement, in my opinion, has never been more critical, and these behind-the-scenes innovations greatly help this.

Q: What potential is there for greater efficiency in the production and distribution of magazines?

A: I think that in life, the greatest barrier to progress and efficiency is complacency. In times like these, we have seen dramatic changes in many markets, not just in publishing, where we have all had to adapt in some way. Perhaps the biggest headache at the moment is postage costs for many subscription-based publishers. The good news is that there are options and alternatives available, but it should involve an in-depth chat with your existing suppliers regarding what solutions they could offer.

With more tools available, it is possible to maximise ROI on both print and digital titles. The real question I think at the moment for many publishers is “Quantity or Quality?”. This applies to the numbers of copies produced and distributed and the number of pages in the magazine, where the magazines are distributed and much more. Printers and distributors will all have many different alternatives or “tweaks” for many of these issues. They can look at the data and information that they have and build the service around the publisher. Whether it’s changing paperweights or brands or changing pagination, targeting profitability of copy sales or even looking into services such as Mailmark, there are lots of avenues to consider.

As in all things, it is always worth asking questions.

Q: As we start to emerge from lockdown, what steps should publishers be taking?

A: As a printer, I can only speak from my perspective, but I think that publishers should continue with the steps that many are taking for the most part. Keeping subs copies strong, creating new, quality content and watching print efficiencies are always crucial to any publisher's success. Asking questions as I have alluded to earlier is also really important, not only in regards to suppliers but also about their readers. For example, have publishers noticed a change in how their readers are engaging with them?

With the gradual easing of lockdown and depending on the title's nature, I believe it is essential to regain that human connection with readers. Whether that is attending and hosting shows or participating in other events, these opportunities not only can be a celebration of the diverse range of interests out there but a fantastic opportunity to reach new readers and learn more about them.

Q: What excites you about the future of magazines?

A: I don’t think that there has been a better time to be a trusted source of information and relevant content, and I believe that magazines are the best exemplars of this.

The main driver for success in any form of media will always be the content itself, and I think that there is so much value that magazines can offer that other sources simply cannot.

About us

Warners Midlands Printers is still family-run since 1926 and specialises in the short to medium run magazine market. With our unique culture and customer service teams, we provide tailored bespoke services to our customers.

We can produce both web and sheetfed magazine in-house and offer saddle-stitched, perfect and PUR binding as standard. To better help our subscription-based customers, we provide in house mailing, including the option to use starch-based and paper-based wraps. The company is proudly certified to both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

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Tel: 01778 391 000


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