15 April 2007

Positioning Magazines for Baby Boomers

I’ve been doing a lot of consulting for magazines/magazine web sites lately. When I present at a public or private conference and the attendees are involved in print, included is a large chunk about positioning magazines for Baby Boomers. And I’m informally asked about this subject on a regular basis. Here’s a quick version of what I say:

Take a look at this classic commercial from the early 1980s ...


That was before desktop computers, cell phones, IM, BlackBerrys, Twitter, etc. If done today the spot might still be funny and persuasive, but would reflect a different ethos - because for many of us life is like that. I know a big chunk of mine is. (We have a new, cute term for it: multitasking.)

There are active and passive parts of our day. Without getting into too much psychobabble, as you get older the passive side needs more nourishment. It’s not really passive. It’s focused absorption. At some point you have to climb out of your frenetic digital nest and concentrate on one thing. It might be reading a book, watching a TV show or movie, listening to music, looking out the window.

Or immersing yourself in a magazine.

This isn’t ‘down time’ (that would be sleeping), but nourishing your psyche by absorbing and not actively being involved in what you’re doing.

When radios became must-haves in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the doomsayers said that this would be the end of magazines and newspapers. When television became popular in the late 1940s and early 1950s the doomsayers said that this would be the end of radio. When the WWW became popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s the doomsayers said that this would be the end of everything. They’re still saying it.

I think not. (Although I do wonder about the fate of daily newspapers.)

Magazines do not compete with the various offerings slithering and exploding in a digital nest. If you fashion a web site for your magazine it would be wise to make it a different experience – because it will be whether you like it or not. It’s a web site, not a magazine. Certainly a bit of cross-promotion, a bit of cross-branding should be a part of the experience. I might suggest the same logo but a different layout and color palette. Certainly different content.

To position the magazine in a promotional campaign place it far away from the interactive frenzy. It’s like a pleasant dinner, a walk, a good movie, a good book – to be singularly appreciated. Too often, I see magazines desperately trying to compete with and within the digital nest. This nest is here to stay – but for a big part of their day Baby Boomers are happy to fly far from all the chaos and into another nest – one that is warm and nourishing. That’s where they will find, among other delectable items, your magazine.