South by Southwest
Digital’s latest weapon in the search for revenue: ink

Here are three completely different approaches to making money with a digital audience that have two things in common: they’re made completely of paper and they’re also completely profitable. Here’s the breakdown on how these digital properties are printing profits:

1. Book it. Pitchfork media has been steadily sending Rolling Stone out of business pretty much since it launched almost 20 years ago, focusing on online music criticism. Their new publication is a hefty monthly, with beautiful art direction, great paper stock and more ‘timeless’ long-form content, filled out with ‘graphic panels’ and shorter pieces re-purposed from the website. Pitchfork pre-sold all ad space in the first four issues exclusively to just one advertiser (Converse) who gets an inside front gate, an inside rear gate, a double spread and that’s all. It’s meant to be a collectible and is so large it even has an ISBN.

2. Under-price, over deliver, hyper engage. Modern Farmer is probably best described as hipster agriculture porn. If it didn’t exist, Chipotle would probably have to invent it. The publisher learned the ropes of high-end magazine production during the launch and stratospheric rise of Monocle magazine and has produced a similarly exclusive title her – except this time the distribution is through the regular newsstand network at a wallet-friendly cover price of $7.99. A combination of wealthy, passionate and highly-engaged readers has advertisers lined up around the block, while the low cover price is building scale quickly. Modern Farmer launched on social first, before moving simultaneously to web and print. Almost all of their most successful covers have been of animals.

3. Don’t have readers, have members. Pando Quarterly is the recently re-born print edition of a ‘new journalism’ magazine called ‘Not Safe For Work Corporation’ that styles itself as ‘the future of journalism, with jokes’. Having been acquired by Pando Daily, expect more tech emphasis in the writing but don’t expect any ‘native advertising’. Or even regular advertising. Apparently regular Pando Daily advertisers were ringing up after the first print edition came out, asking ‘why weren’t we told?’. Pando is building itself around a ‘membership’ model, that includes subscriptions to the web, print and live event editions of the publication.

Mike Renaud is the Creative Director of Pitchfork Media, Ann Marie Gardner is CEO of Modern Farmer and Paul Carr is Editor in Chief of NSFCORP. All three featured on a panel at this year’s SXSW titled “Print is Amazing… ly profitable!”, moderated by Jessanne Collins, Editor-in-Chief of Mental Floss magazine.

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