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From catalogue to magazine: the power of storytelling

We all enjoy a good story—whether we’re reading it on our smartphone, tablet or laptop. Yet, some of us actually like to read on one of those cutting-edge devices that are printed on paper, the ones that are held together with staples and glue. What are they called again? Books, maybe. Magazines? Yes, that’s it. Magazines.

While the stalwart magazine format has taken its share of hits over the years and has its share of critics and doomsayers, it remains a viable medium for advertisers, readers and, near and dear to our print-loving hearts, custom content clients.

Even digital natives prefer reading in print, according to Washington Post report Why Digital Natives Prefer Reading in Print.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what veteran editor Bob Love said about magazines at Folio’s Association Media Summit last year: “I like to tell my editors that the internet is our best friend and our worst enemy. Readers get instant information, data and news from Google, but they come to print for something extra. Let’s call it inspiration.”

And: “… that’s the power of magazines; it’s the power to tell a story in a unique way. Video tells a story; social media can tell a story, but the print story—the way pictures, words, headlines and the pacing of the magazine take you on a journey—that’s a much different kind of experience,” Liz Vaccariello, editor-in-chief of newly redesigned Parents magazine, recently told Mr. Magazine himself, Samir Husni.

That’s why it’s gratifying to read retailers such as IKEA and Canadian Tire are seeing the benefits of adding magazine-style editorial content to their catalogues. By doing so, they’re turning them into something their customers will actually make time for and display on their coffee tables instead of treating them like a flyer they flip through and discard.

The IKEA catalogue (nearly seven million copies of which are distributed in Canada) has taken a more editorial approach to the 2017 version, adding storytelling elements and using a livelier colour scheme throughout, according to the Globe and Mail.

“Everything is moving in a more editorial direction. Storytelling is something that we want to share more and more of because it’s important for people to know what kind of brand they are engaging with,” IKEA lead art director Zara Blomqvist said in a Q&A for the catalogue’s launch.

Tanja Dolphin, IKEA’s global catalogue leader, told the Globe that the print product also gets a strong social media boost once it lands on customers’ doorsteps, providing that elusive connection from print to digital that publishers and marketers so often crave. In efforts to be accessible to all, IKEA has also launched a digital experience and a new catalogue app.

Likewise for Canadian Tire, which has turned its catalogue into the Wow Guide by adding lifestyle content to help showcase its vast product array. It also added image-recognition software to the Canadian Tire app to drive customers and readers from the printed guide to the website.

Connecting interactive elements, such as virtual reality (which will replace the once popular QR code) to a print magazine will only become more popular as publishers look for ways to not only push readers online, but also give them an immersive reading experience—and help them maintain that engagement to their brands.

But, as our clients (like CAA and Acura) already know, that experience will always begin with a good story.

Photo: Breanna Rawn

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NY Times Autos reaches end of the (print) road

As of the end of this year, The New York Times will end its print Automobiles section.

While it looks as though Autos content will continue in some form online, I’ll miss reading the Automotive content in print.

Part of the appeal for me was the print section published the work of great writers like Ezra Dyer and Lawrence Ulrich, who always find a smart away to approach their stories and reviews. As well, with its heritage of great journalism, The New York Times helped to legitimize the oft-criticized field of automotive journalism.

Despite its problems, the Times, to me at least, is the gold standard of newspapers and journalism. Car journalism, however is often viewed as fluff or an offshoot of the auto companies’ marketing departments. Not by the people who produce it, mind you, but by dismissive readers and media critics. Having a car section in the Times, though, gave it some needed credibility. And I’ve always appreciated how that unique Times voice of straightforward erudition was brought to bear on reviews of the Dodge Challenger or the Polaris Slingshot. Here’s hoping that’ll continue on the web.

Here’s the text of a memo that was sent to Times employees regarding the auto section by executive editor Dean Baquet (via Capital New York):

Dear Colleagues,

As I said in a previous note, we are reviewing sections of The Times as part of our effort to cut costs in the newsroom. So I regret to announce that as of the first of the year we will no longer publish a stand-alone autos section.

We will continue covering the automobile industry, of course, as evidenced by our sensational investigative reporting on the ignition switch problems in General Motors cars. And we will run consumer stories in the Business section, including regular coverage on Fridays. The Driven videos will continue online.

But despite sensational work over the years by Jim Cobb and his crew, the masthead and I concluded there is no longer an economic reason for a separate section.

Jim was there 20 years ago when the Sunday section was launched, and he has made The Times proud ever since. In the day, the insatiable demand among print advertisers had the coverage spread across several days, including Sunday. Now we’ll consolidate our print efforts on Friday, while remaining nimble on the web.

There will be opportunities in the coming weeks to single out the great work of Jim, Norman Mayersohn, Jim Schembari, Robert Peele and the many contributors, but let me start here by saying how grateful I am for two decades of imagination and dedication in making our Sunday section the best read in the business.

— Dean