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Print Media Isn't Dead (But Sometimes It Feels Like It)

Lisa Sands

After 20+ year career in communications that included positions in public relations, advertising, media, and marketing, Lisa Sands stepped into the role of publisher for Edible Cleveland magazine, a local independently-owned publication that is part of a network of roughly 80 other “edibles” across the U.S. and Canada. After one year, Lisa’s has had to analyze all aspects of the magazine’s operations and face many realities about the role media plays in our lives, how we’re using it, where we get our information, and what we are willing to pay for as media consumers and as marketers. We’ll discuss the holistic media landscape from the viewpoint of journalists and also marketers including:

Is the traditional media landscape all doom and gloom?
Is there still a place for print media in the marketing mix?
Do we want to live in a world where everything we consume is online? If the answer is no, then where do we go from here?



  • The oversaturated media environment is contributing to consumers developing “digital fatigue,” causing them to seek out other forms of news and entertainment like print media.

  • An effective Integrated marketing communications strategy should not neglect print media. This is a highly segmented audience, consider their needs and wants in relation to your brand when designing and selecting content for print media.

  • Social media has set an idea that all information is free, but not all of this information is reliable because anyone can contribute. Print media, like magazines, have the power to charge for limited spaces to ensure only top quality content is produced.

Michael Lynch: Could you tell us what exactly is Edible Cleveland? What does it cover?

Lisa Sands: Edible Cleveland is a regional food magazine that covers Northwest Ohio, and it actually covers about seven counties. We are one of about 80 publications in the Edible Communities network. That network has been around for close to 15 years and Edible Cleveland's been around for eight. Food has become this element of entertainment. It's a hobby. Social media was developing at the same time and foodie culture. But Edibles by nature are actually a lot deeper than that. They're very focused on the local food movement, on slow food, on sustainability and local food ecosystems. That starts with the farm, and that might end up at the amazing restaurant in the downtown area. But the fact is our food ecology is important. It took a back seat for a while, but I think, interestingly enough, the COVID-19 situation is going to make people realize just how important their local food ecosystem is, so we plan to be there for that.

Michael Lynch: Is traditional media all doom and gloom now? Are we just going to get rid of everything that's tactile and something you hold in your hand?

Lisa Sands: I do not believe that is the case at all. I think people are going to come out of this home-bound pandemic phase with a lot digital fatigue. There's an awareness that digital is fantastic –it's quick, it's immediate, it's very trackable. But I don't think print media is going away. Print media offers a distraction-free environment. It's an intentional choice. People seek it out. People keep things. It's tangible. You keep your magazines around the house for a while. You pick them up multiple times. We hear from people that have all 32, 33 Edibles since it started, and they keep them in their house and they go back to them time and time again.


Michael Lynch: But exactly where do you think that today print media really fits in one's marketing mix?

Lisa Sands: It's going to be even more critical going forward. I value social media. As we learned through the WVU Integrated Marketing Communications Program, it all works together, right? There's a place for everything in the right way. The real key thing is the strategy that's employed before any of those things happen. It's, "What are you trying to do? What is your reader looking for? What are their values? What's important to them?" I'll tell you the reason I think that print media will continue to be strong. When you look at how well thought of, known brands, like the REIs, they're putting out beautiful catalogs. People still want to get those. They're also putting out their own content in the form of a beautiful magazine, and in some cases they're charging for it

Michael Lynch: Do you think that the future really is going to be a mix of online and print media? Or where do you think that's all going?

Lisa Sands: I do. Inevitably the pendulum will swing back, and I don't think it'll swing all the way back. People are going to recognize that to communicate in a very busy, noisy world they need to be using a multitude of channels. They need to be adapting those channels, and they need to be digging deep for using those channels very creatively. Print is a viable piece of that integrated marketing campaign.

Michael Lynch: How are the newer, younger generations looking at food? And do you really think they're interested in reading print media?

Lisa Sands: That it depends on the individual. The younger generation that has been trained and doesn’t need to utilize traditional media the way maybe we were trained to use it. The influencer space has gotten very busy, and I think it's gotten very... maybe even insincere. It's very pay-to-play. Regardless of whether you are younger or you're older, print media and traditional media largely are viewed as being very credible channels for information. The reason I think that is because of something that was happening to me a lot of times. As a publisher, and as someone out there selling, I have no shortage of people reaching out to me because they want to be covered in a magazine. They've got a great story. They're pitching me stories and they want to be in there. People love to be featured in a print item or in a TV spot. But the fact is, when you go back to those same people who value you for that, and you say, "Support us, or how about putting your ad or your grand in it and showing that you align with what we stand for and our value," sometimes they throw up their hands and they say, "Oh yeah. No, we don't really pay for it. We don't pay for anything." That has been very problematic. I think that's really been the cause of the demise for print and other forms of traditional media. Social media has a place and I think it's fantastic, but I think we also have trained an entire generation that everything is free. Unfortunately, when everything is free, you get a lot of garbage. You get a lot of things that are not true. You get a lot of things that just have no depth or meaning. There's a lot of distrust. I have faith that the younger media consumer is aware of the fact that not everything they can see online, in a digital environment, in a social environment, can be trusted.

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