Mr Magazine: 9 changes print must make now

Adelle Horler is group head of content, a fence-sitter who loves Intelligent Life in print and on her iPad.

Magazine guru Samir Husni shares how print can move beyond the digital age.

At a time when digital is the cool place to play, Samir Husni is an unapologetic print evangelist. Founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the at the University of Mississippi, he’s better known as Mr Magazine, the authority on trends in the print industry.
’Digital is a beautiful and seductive mistress,’ he said provocatively at a recent Media24 editors forum. ’In 2010 we fell in love with iPads and smartphones – but our one-night-stand became a love affair, and we started robbing our faithful spouse, print, to spend more money on the mistress.
’But five years later, where’s the money? The mistress has run away with it, while print is still bringing in the cash.’ The answer, he believes, is that digital is a sister, not a lover. Print and digital have a happily-ever-after future together.
Mr Magazine, Samir Husni
Mr Magazine, Samir Husni
In 2010, he said, we started talking about the death of print; now we’re talking about the decline of print. ’But five years from now we’ll be talking about the power of print!’
Right now print is jumping through hoops to be as sexy as digital, with fancy fold-out covers, loads of cover mounts and even a print magazine that plays a video (serious gizmos embedded within the paper). But that needs to change, said Mr Magazine. ’Are we in the business of gimmicks or engagement?’ he asked.
More and more media – and even digital – heavyweights are recognising that print has a premium value in its own right. The digital version of the Martha Stewart magazine is just that – a straight online version of the print with no fancy gimmicks. Digital brands like Net-A-Porter and Airbnb have both launched print magazines alongside their digital offering. Net-A-Porter’s CEO felt he couldn’t call himself a multi-media publisher if he didn’t have print.
And then there’s IKEA, that’s stumbled upon an incredible new technology.

So how do we take print beyond the digital age? Samir outlined nine roles print media can play.
1. Be curators of content. ’There’s too much content, and a scarcity of curation.’ Print can say: we’ve done the research for you, now here are the answers.
2. Be analysers of data. ’Google knows more about me than my wife. We must analyse the data so we know our audiences.’ Rather than focus groups, he suggested taking 10 readers to lunch. ’Listen to their challenges. Then feed their hunger.’
3. Be creators of solutions. ’Amid so much conflicting content, validate information for readers. Let them depend on you by being one step ahead – preview the near future.’
4. Be masters of opinions. ’Start conversations and lead public debate – you are the authority. Then, importantly, let the audience know they’re being heard, even if you don’t agree.’
5. Be makers of experiences. ’Share and create experiences that lead to engagement.’
6. Be suppliers of addiction. ’Nobody needs a magazine, so you need to make readers dependent on you. Dispense the drugs the audience needs. Change their wants to needs.’
7. Be witty storytellers. ’Fulfil your readers’ needs, but don’t forget the cliffhanger to make them buy the next issue.’
8. Be provoker of emotions. Create content that stirs emotional reactions.
9. Be innovators in print. Let’s keep doing things differently.
And if you still need convincing that digital isn’t always the most desirable, take a look at your wrist. Is your watch analogue or digital? And when did you last see a R20 000 digital watch?
For more on Samir Husni, visit, or email

Written by Adelle Horler

One thought on “Mr Magazine: 9 changes print must make now

  1. Good post, and good reminder of what matters, except I’m still uncertain what is meant by the “digital age” and what it means to “move beyond it.”

    The phrase “sage advice” is used in the above article, which I would change to the SAME ADVICE.

    What engages a publication subscriber has never changed. . . not since Ben Franklin’s newspaper, or the GRIT or the Saturday Evening Post or LIFE magazine or TIME, when these were the powerhouses of their days.

    Magazines are all about giving people a printed, scheduled, periodic, predictable surprise, and they always will be.

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