Magazine publishing becoming more personal

By Erik Arvidson

In the age of personalization, none of us is very surprised anymore to walk down a supermarket aisle and see approximately 1,752 different brands and varieties of shampoo. As consumers, we’ve gotten so used to customized products and offers personalized to our needs that we have come to expect it. That trend has even spread to the world of publishing.

A few weeks ago, a trade pub that I follow regularly, American Printer, launched a cool-in-theory publishing concept that they call B2Me. Readers of American Printer receive a copy of the publication that has stuff customized to their interests.

For those unfamiliar with American Printer, it’s a B2B publication written for…wait for it…print professionals in the US. It first began publishing in the 1880s. Last year, American Printer’s former owner, Penton Media, said it would cease publishing, citing difficulties with its business model. American Printer being a strong brand, it was bought by another company, OutputLinks Communications Group, which relaunched the magazine under the new quarterly platform.

How does B2Me work? According to the publishers, its personalized to the reader just like a direct mail campaign would be, using each reader’s demographic profile. For example, some readers of American Printer operate small shops and can’t afford the top-of-the-line printing presses. Their version of the magazine may feature more editorial and advertising focused on equipment they are more likely to buy.

For my part, I am (a) glad to see American Printer still publishing, and (b) interested to see whether it will work out. Will subscribers read more of the magazine, and look at more of the ads? Will companies using any of the interactive advertising tools, like QR and PURL codes, get more value out of this model? I could see other B2B trade pubs following suit, especially those that appeal to readers at many different professional levels of an industry.

Whatever the ultimate result, it’s a great example of a publication adapting to changing reader and advertiser needs to stay in business. I’m sure other magazines will be watching this situation closely.