Can Print Still Flourish in The Age of Digital? An Interview with Star Tribune Magazine’s Sue Campbell
Has digital media – from Huffington Post, Google News and BuzzFeed to Kindle e-books, Twitter and (God help us) more than 8 million blogs – finally vanquished Print?
Recent headlines provide brutal evidence: Condé Nast announced last December it was shutting down the print version of Self magazine to go online-only. Nearly three months prior, the daily Pittsburgh Tribune-Review shifted to online-only, laying off 106 staffers. Gannett recently “downsized” 350 jobs and the Wall Street Journal laid off 48 (although to be fair, the Washington Post – with 750 newsroom positions – is adding dozens of journalists). But the evocatively-titled website Newspaper Death Watch continues to track newspapers, from Denver’s Rocky Mountain News to the Tampa Tribune, that have closed in a column headed “R.I.P.”
So when Minnesota’s Star Tribune media company announced that in April 2017, it will launch a new quarterly print publication – Star Tribune Magazine – for delivery to 230,000 subscriber households, our ears at Maccabee PR perked up. In the words of Ruth Jamieson’s new book on the indie mag explosion, “Print Is Dead. Long Live Print”! But it’s a new kind of print – from Red Bull’s thrilling two million-circulation Red Bulletin Magazine to limited edition magazines like London-based LAW. All of which proves there’s still a place in the media landscape for tactile, richly-illustrated print media, even in the face of what Jamieson decried as the internet’s facility with “fast, cheap distribution of throwaway information.”
Heading the new Star Tribune Magazine is Sue Campbell (pictured on left), assistant managing editor for features at the Star Tribune. An alumnus of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Sue comes out of digital – at Twin Cities Public TV, she grew the NextAvenue.org website to a 300 percent increase in traffic with 1,000,000 unique visitors a month, re-launching the site with responsive design and mobile-friendly content. Before that, she worked at MSP Communications as director of feature digital editorial for clients from 3M to Optum and General Mills. Please welcome. . . Sue Campbell!
So, Sue, what’s up with our Minneapolis newspaper – so successful in growing digital products like StarTribune.com to 7,000,000 unique visitors – giving birth to another print publication, Star Tribune Magazine?
“Our publisher Mike Klingensmith – who launched Entertainment Weekly magazine – is hugely bullish on print. Mike recognizes that newspapers that pulled away from their daily print publishing were hurt by it. Papers like the Detroit Free Press, which cut back on delivering daily issues to subscribers’ homes, eroded their print audience.”
“Our new magazine really is a print product. If a Sunday print subscriber wants to see Star Tribune Magazine online, it’s there – but behind a firewall that you can access only using your subscription information.”
“The magazine will be 100% fresh content, so it will not cannibalize what we’re already publishing in the daily paper. Our staff is thrilled: Reporters like to write for a shiny, glossy package that lets you create a cover story in a different way. With a daily newspaper, journalists have to hook readers high in the story in the first few sentences. With magazines, you can relax readers into the story and exercise your muscles of narrative storytelling. We’ll also be publishing a quarterly photo essay in Star Tribune Magazine, enabling our photographers to shoot more in-depth than they do with daily images for spot news.”
Our market already has Minnesota Monthly and Mpls/St. Paul magazines on the magazine rack. Who do you see Star Tribune Magazine competing against?
“I don’t see Star Tribune Magazine competing with Mpls/St. Paul – they’re a monthly, we’re a quarterly. Our magazine will be the size of the weekly New York Times Magazine – a 9” x 10.75” format on glossy, 50-pound paper stock. And we’re staying away from cover stories like '10 Best Burgers' or 'Find Your Best Dentist.' Most importantly unlike those magazines, our publication will not be sold on newsstands. So we don’t need that Newstand Eyeball Grab headline on the cover. Instead, we’ll approach Star Tribune Magazine readers in their homes with a story that will help them understand an issue, person or place with greater depth and sensitivity.
When you remove the pound-it-out constraints of digital – which are 'be first, be fast' – journalists get a chance to think more about the structure of a story and what you want readers to really get out of the piece.”
What advice do you have for public relations pros who might want to pitch their client’s story to Star Tribune Magazine?
“We are always pitchable by PR people. As you pitch, keep in mind that we have four themed issues a year of Star Tribune Magazine: Home and Garden in the spring, Health and Wellness in the summer, Travel in the fall and a Minnesota-Made Gift Guide in the winter. Keep our lead time in mind: As a quarterly, we’re working at least 2 ½ months out. In fact, we need to shoot photos for our Winter 2017 issue nearly a year earlier, when there’s still snow on the ground!”
So – given that you straddle the print and digital world as a managing editor, what do you read and how do you consume it?
“When I wake up in the morning, I take my dog downstairs and feed him his breakfast. Then I check my Twitter feed for news via my iPad and my Facebook feed for what’s trending. I look on Twitter to see what our Star Tribune and the New York Times and the St. Paul Pioneer Press are tweeting about – I also follow several Washington Post reporters on Twitter. Then I get my coffee, and read the print edition of our newspaper!”
And do you read books?
“Yes, I do read books at night, but the format of my books depends on how I purchased it. I listen to Audible audio books when I drive up north in my car. I may buy a hard copy of a book or take it out from the library. The last book I bought was Gloria Steinem’s memoir, which I brought to her ‘Talking Volumes’ speech in hardcover form so I could get her autograph. I did meet Gloria, but I forgot to have her autograph it!”
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How do you think print magazines and newspapers can co-exist with digital journalism? And if you’re a corporate marketer, would you rather your company and its products be featured in the print edition of a magazine or online in its digital edition? Please weigh in!
Paul Maccabee is president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.