It's ironic. Just when the content industry is emphasising the number of platforms on which it operates, and just as video agencies, digital outfits and app developers are flocking under the umbrella of content marketing - the most fashionable medium seems to be print.
Trendy shops which once offered club flyers on their counters are now displaying independent magazines, like Oh Comely and Inventory. Boutiques are selling issues of The Gentlewoman; menswear stores have free copies of Jocks & Nerds. From boarding to cycling to avant garde music, if an activity is fashionable, there’ll be an independent magazine to cover it.
As The Guardian put it in an article, “Mainstream magazines might be struggling to survive against digital media, but their independent counterparts are thriving.”
Indeed, the independent magazine scene is booming. Stack, one of the first UK newsstands for independent titles, now sells 23 different magazines, while international newcomer Anikibo offers some 30 titles.
The young audience enthuses about their design, their paper, and their authenticity. It’s as if a generation reared on digital has rediscovered print. The way that magazines take a reader on an editorial journey, from a beginning to an end, with no links away or video interruptions. The statistics which the industry once promoted, about the engagement time of magazines compared to other media, still hold true; if anything, they look even stronger, compared with the blips of attention to digital.
So as fashionable brands look to emulate the tastes of their young customers, they are looking for print publications of their own. Labels like Carhartt, and Aubin & Wills, have produced their own publications. Edwin, Marimekko, SCP and G-Star Raw have all published in newsprint. Even a one-off, independent Soho menswear store, Fourth & Main, now publishes its own magazine.
And agencies whose hearts lie in editorial can surely offer their services to other young brands who want to follow them into print.
The Church of London were among the first to take the values of independent magazines, like their own Huck and Little White Lies, and translate those into successful work for clients. White Light Media have followed suit, using their own independent drinks magazine, Hot Rum Cow, as a creative calling-card.
Some larger content agencies may feel that they are beyond such jobs, and that they’re not interested in such relatively modest projects, or in projects without a multi-platform contract. But there are now clients who want to put editorial content into print, into magazines which employ the creative designs, innovative formats and tactile values of the independents, and so demonstrate that their brands are in touch with the mood of their audience.
And that’s what editorial agencies are all about.