How does a brand balance the opportunities for constant communication with the relevance and impact of publishing to a natural rhythm?
There are certain schedules which are hard-wired into our sensibilities. Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, rhythms of planning and behaviour. There’s nothing to stop a communication coming out every other day, three times a month, or nine times a year – nothing except the feeling that its publication doesn’t connect with anything in our human patterns and routines.
Publishing has always been good at identifying and echoing the rhythms of its particular audiences. That’s particularly true of branded journalism, tied as it is to lifestyle (and therefore purchasing) patterns. The content we want to consume daily is naturally different to the content we want to consume weekly or monthly.
And in many markets there remains a genuine, subliminal relevance to quarterly publication, which matches the fashions in clothes, the updating of homes and the changes in diet that go along with the season. Quarterly customer magazines, arriving on a doormat or in store, have a unique sense of seasonal significance and relevance, over and above the ‘always on’ websites in their field. They announce that now is the time to reconsider and re-engage with their subject.
That also works well with communications from galleries, theatres, museums and the like, which tend to have seasonal programmes. When members or Friends get the announcement of the forthcoming season’s events, packaged in a single communication, it’s a genuine occasion, an event in itself.
It’s a hard thing to retain this sense of rhythm and relevance online. One of the dangers of digital publishing is the temptation to say things whenever you have something to say. (We should draw a veil over those brands who say things even when they don’t have something to say…)
If content is updated irregularly or too frequently, if it doesn’t match a natural rhythm, then audiences will often impose their own personal schedule of visits. It’ll be the site they read over lunch at the desk, or last thing at night, or every Saturday after the football, regardless of when the content has actually been published.
Print publication has become a stand-out form of communication against a background of digital noise. The furniture and fashion websites need to be there all the time, but it’s the arrival of the print catalogue twice a year, or the magazine every season, which is not only an outstanding event, but which connects with a natural human cycle. As such, it can impose a schedule and a significance to branded communication – and demonstrate that a brand has not forgotten the rhythms to which most of us still move.
Posted by: Paul Keers, London Bureau Chief, White Light Media