Insurance Trade Press Editors Address Future of Print Media at IMCA

By | August 7, 2015

Insurance trade press editors told industry marketing and communications professionals that, despite the rush of readers and advertisers to digital, they believe print magazines will be around for at least another five to 10 years and possibly longer.

They also suggested that technology may come to the rescue of print, during a panel discussion at the recent Insurance Marketing and Communications Association (IMCA) annual meeting in Nashville. IMCA President Mark Friedlander, head of corporate communications for Main Street America, moderated the panel.

[Full disclosure: The author of this report was one of the panelists.]

“When we do surveys and talk to our readers, a great number still like the print experience. Not exclusively, they also obviously read online, they read mobile, they do other things. But they do like the print experience, so right for now, we’re sticking with it,” said Andrew Simpson, chief of content for Wells Media Group, which publishes five Insurance Journal print magazines and the quarterly print magazine Carrier Management in addition to websites and email newsletters.

Simpson said publishers have to be mindful of the costs and inefficiencies of printing and mail distribution but that he believes technology could still come along with a solution to give print a new lease on life.

“We’re sitting here today, who knows what tomorrow what might bring in terms of media printing or other options that would make it, bring it back on the table as a future platform,” Simpson said.

Rick Pullen, editor-in-chief of Leader’s Edge, the association magazine of Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, agreed.

“Right now, print will be around for another 10 or 20 years. What I think will happen or hope will happen is they create the technology like an iPad with two pages, so that whether it’s on paper or in an iPad, you can still get that experience of a magazine and open it up. Whether that’ll happen, I’ve got to think Apple’s got to do something like that, innovate somehow,” he said.

Lee McDonald, group vice president of of A.M. Best Co., publisher of Best’s Review magazine and industry newsletters including Best Day, noted that there are already technologies that work with print to make it an interactive medium.

“I’m talking about the augmented reality side of it. I don’t know if you’ve seen what’s been going on, especially in Europe in fashion. We’re looking to pretty soon start some testing with that,” he said.

Augmented reality involves readers using a mobile app to trigger a code that brings the printed editorial or advertising content alive, perhaps opening a video, linking to a site, or providing e-commerce capability.

“You can go out and people are reading a magazine on the way to work, on the train or the bus or at the beach, and have a truly interactive electronic experience in a way that you can’t even have in your desktop,” McDonald said.

The panelists also addressed how media professions can work with their publications to get out their stories, the relationship between advertising and editorial departments, their views of native advertising content and suggestions for using forms of media other than print to tell a story.

Call for Diversity

In closing comments, the panelists called for more creativity and diversity in the ranks of insurance industry editors and communicators.

“We need you in the trade press. Look at the three white haired old guys, males sitting up here. We need young blood in the trade press, as well, and people here know this, it’s very hard to find people that can both write and understand insurance, it’s almost impossible. If you want to change career, you’ll probably have to take a cut in pay, but come join us, join the trade press. We’d love to have you,” Wells Media’s Simpson told the communications professionals.

Pullen stressed the need for more creativity.

“[W]hat’s wrong with this industry, and Andy just said it, we are stale, male, and pale. There are no risk takers in an industry that prides itself on dealing with risk,” he said.

“All of you need to start taking risk, all of you need to be hell of a lot more creative than you are.”

A.M. Best’s McDonald said the future in publishing remains bright.

“Learn how to create…Content is a great future for everybody here,” he said, urging the communicators to learning about new media.

For more videos from the IMCA annual conference, check out insurancejournal.tv.

Here are more from the IMCA Trade Press panel. The videos were shot by IMCA and edited by Insurance Journal.

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