“Print is dying.”
For regional newspapers and publications across the US, this statement seems to be unfortunately correct. Every week another local newspaper closes up shop for good, just another nail in the coffin, another brick in the wall spelling the end of days for traditional newspapers as we know them. Perhaps interest in reading inky pages detailing relevant albeit often mundane information about one’s home city has simply dwindled away. And up until recently, I assumed this trend applied to local magazines as well, another facet of the publishing industry ready to fall victim to changing times and fickle audiences.
But maybe I was wrong.
Just a few weeks ago, I began working at Baltimore, my city’s local magazine. Until I sat down to prepare for my interview just a few months ago, I hadn’t heard much about the magazine. Sure, I knew of its existence, but not much else. However, the last three weeks working as an Editorial Intern at Baltimore have offered me new insights not only into this magazine, but city magazines as a whole. To be honest, at first I was surprised by Baltimore‘s bustling hallways and high morale…not always what you think of when you imagine local publications in this struggling economy. But somehow, Baltimore has been able to grow extensively while similar publications have faded just as quickly. How can Baltimore perform so well when other publications suffer so badly in the industry today? Well after a couple weeks working for the magazine, here are some ways in which Baltimore seems to position itself on the road for success.
-Target the youth: Baltimore gets a really bad rap, sometimes even from its own inhabitants. But really, Baltimore is an up and coming place. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Baltimore is “a city that is full of other young professionals – and attracting more every month. There is a vibrant bar and restaurant scene, social sports leagues through which hundreds of young people get together to play kickball and other games, even a monthly bike ride” Translation: Young people are flocking to Baltimore and are excited to get to know their city. Baltimore targets these young people by ensuring the magazine is innovative and fresh, with fun, youthful content to boot.
-In-Touch Graphics: Nobody is going to pick up a magazine that looks dated. Instead, thenextweb.com suggests that “staying up to date on the latest design trends” is a surefire way to stay relevant and desirable in the publishing industry today. And Baltimore’s art department does a great job. Check out the December 2014’s front cover design below. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a fresh, creative cover on a news-stand magazine.
-Have a strong digital presence: In the digital age, it’s important “that your digital content is quality content,” according again to thenextweb.com. And Baltimore accomplishes this with flying colors. See the screenshot of baltimoremagazine.net below. Notice how its look rivals national and international publications. Not only that, but the content is more useful than general articles geared to a wide section of the population. Instead, it features fun weekend plans for the people of Baltimore, a niche previously unfilled in the city.
-Create a human connection: Who doesn’t like feeling special? Not many people see their name or their friends’ names in print in major magazines but in Baltimore, that’s a different story. By profiling leading community members, Baltimore offers readers a chance to connect more deeply with their city. And often, readers may recognize someone they know within the magazine’s pages. For instance, the February issue profiled the city’s hottest singles, dozens of every-day, up-and-comers in Baltimore. And then, the magazine threw a giant party with the profiled singles at Pazo, a Harbor East restaurant, where readers could buy tickets to come socialize with other singles, conveniently the weekend before Valentine’s Day. What better way to foster community readership than by connecting readers over cocktails?
Clearly, Baltimore has figured a way to not only stay afloat but actually succeed as a local publication in Baltimore City. There’s a lot of knowledge to be gained by studying the case of this magazine and similarly profitable cities magazines. Perhaps most evident is that although regional newspapers have suffered over the past years, all is not lost. If magazines offer content that is innovative and inspired, appear fresh and youthful, grow a strong digital presence, connect personally with their audience, and most importantly, keep it local, they won’t just survive within the publishing industry, but also thrive.