A Promising Print (and Vinyl) Comeback

Sometimes Christmas comes a little early, and this time, it was an email that reminded me.

On Monday, I saw an announcement that didn’t immediately register as I scrolled through the messages in my inbox. “Paste is Back in Print: Introducing Paste Quarterly” is what the subject line said.

Sometimes Christmas comes a little early, and this time, it was an email that reminded me.

On Monday, I saw an announcement that didn’t immediately register as I scrolled through the messages in my inbox. “Paste is Back in Print: Introducing Paste Quarterly” is what the subject line said.

I’ve been really swamped all week, and you know how it is. You make a mental note to check something out, and if you’re lucky, you get back to it a few minutes or hours later.

Well, that didn’t happen.

Paste, I should explain, is a website that covers music, as well as books, TV, gaming, and a lot more. When it was a print magazine in the early 2000s, it was focused almost entirely on music, and I was very happy to count myself as one of its subscribers. Through its coverage, I was introduced to up-and-coming musicians like the Hold Steady, Tift Merritt, and Drive-By Truckers. I also gained a new appreciation for established artists like Johnny Cash.

Each issue included a compilation CD with a dozen or more songs, and sometimes other content. Even after I read through each magazine, and often bought the artists’ music, I held on to those CDs.

Another great feature was the magazine itself. With good writing and photography on heavy-stock paper, it was actually a pleasure to hold in your hands.

It ceased print publication in 2010 to focus only on digital, including a daily email digest … until now.

paste1Wednesday’s email reminded me of the big news: “Paste Is Back In Print!” Turns out that it’s going to be a 120-page,12”x12” quarterly. Besides stories, reviews, and interviews, each issue will also include a vinyl record with exclusive music recorded at the company’s studios.

Vinyl’s been staging its own return in recent years. It’s still only a small share of the music market, but a growing one. And last week in the U.K., record sales beat downloads for the first time ever.

To help support this return, the magazine started an Indiegogo campaign that’s raised about 40% of its $100,000 goal. Participants can get more perks depending on how much they donate when subscribing.

But will the promises of “a clever illustrated spread, stunning photos bleeding off the edge and long-form stories that pull you in page after page” be enough?

I’m hoping that the value of a tangible printed magazine will be attractive to enough readers. They’ll need to be engaged audiences who are excited to discover (and pay for) more well-considered content, and interesting photography and design.

In his blog post yesterday, Chuck McLeester talked about some of the barriers to a full-scale revival of analog music by millennials. I’m wondering if the music will make the difference this time in keeping the print magazine going.

I’m betting that it will. And I’ll be subscribing again. Now, where can I buy a turntable?

So, what’s your take, marketers? Can this work? And what favorite products, print, digital, or whatever, would you like to bring back?  Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

Will Millennials Fully Experience the Analog Revival?

Analog is back. It’s hip, it’s retro and it’s hot in film photography, print books and paper notebooks. But will the embrace of tactile, non-digital media among Millennials extend to music? That remains to be seen.

Analog is making a comeback
Analog is making a comeback

Analog is back. It’s hip, it’s retro and it’s hot in film photography, print books and paper notebooks. But will the embrace of tactile, non-digital media among Millennials extend to music? That remains to be seen.

Instagram shows over 3 million posts each for the hashtags #filmphotography, #filmisnotdead and #polaroid. Photo booths are popular at weddings. Young people are increasingly enamored with pictures taken on devices other than their phones, even though Instagram remains the go-to place to view and share them.

My students who have done class research projects on ebook readers have consistently found that college students prefer print books over electronic ones for classes. I’ve observed an increasing number of students using paper notebooks rather than tablet computers and laptops to take notes. Hardcover diary-type notebooks are gaining a hipster cache, and recently, I had a student enter an appointment in a paper calendar, as I remarked, “How quaint!”

A New York Times review says the new David Sax book, “The Revenge of Analog,” is “a powerful counter-narrative to the techno-utopian belief that we would live in an ever-improving, all-digital world.” The review adds that the author contends that the analog revival “is not just a case of nostalgia or hipster street cred, but something more complex.”

But while most things we can have and hold are easily accessible to Millennials, music is different. Fortune magazine reported vinyl record sales hit $416 million last year, the highest since 1988, according to the RIAA. But there are several barriers to the mass adoption of analog music, most significant of which is the need for a turntable and vinyl platters. Millennials own digital music and listen to it on portable devices through headphones, occasionally through a Bluetooth speaker. I’ve written before about the Millennial music experience being more individual than social, more like filling your ears with sound than filling a room with sound.

It’s easier for Baby Boomers to embrace analog music, because many still have their vinyl collections stored away. Marketing consultant Lonny Strum recently wrote in his blog Strumings about re-experiencing the joy of a turntable needle drop, saying “What the process of using a turntable has reminded me of is the joy of interaction/engagement with music that vinyl provided. The ‘needle drop’ (and alas the subsequent vinyl scratches) were all part of the process of listening to music. The selection of the song, the cut of the album took time and consideration, not a millisecond fast-forward that digital allows. I rediscovered the snap, crackle and pop from excessive play in past years. In fact, I instantly recall the places in songs of my 45s and LPs where the crackle, or pop existed, as if it were a key part of the song.”

EmotionsThese are the types of experiences that the Times notes in reviewing “The Revenge of Analog,”

“ … the hectic scratch of a fountain pen on the smooth, lined pages of a notebook; the slow magic of a Polaroid photo developing before our eyes; the snap of a newspaper page being turned and folded back … ”

A recent study published in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society concluded that “MP3 compression strengthened neutral and negative emotional characteristics such as Mysterious, Shy, Scary and Sad, and weakened positive emotional characteristics such as Happy, Heroic, Romantic, Comic and Calm” making the case that analog music might actually be a more positive and pleasant experience.

Will Millennials and the generations who follow get to experience it?