At Dialogue, we know from our multi-platform work with Harley-Davidson that the H.O.G. magazine plays a key role in engendering community, as well as creating a platform for further sales: 62% of H.O.G. members are inspired to attend an event, 26% inspired to test a new model and 35% inspired to engage with the brand.
Even brands that were founded solely in the digital sphere see the value of a printed publication for authenticity, trustworthiness and loyalty. Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Google and Asos are just a few of the many digital brands that have turned to magazines to communicate with both employees and customers.
The packaging problem
One inescapably problematic factor of printed publications is their means of transmission. At Dialogue, many of our publications are posted directly to readers’ homes, which means they must be packaged.
Advanced Direct Mail gives a rundown of a few of the industry-standard options available:
Plastic polywrap: this is currently the most common type of magazine packaging. Low-density polyethylene (known as LDPE) polywrap is lightweight, robust and cost-effective. It’s also 100% recyclable. However, some household waste collections won’t take it, so it needs to be recycled at larger recycling points, such as those found at supermarkets.
Biodegradable starch-based film: also known as PLAs (polymers made from polylactic acid) are normally made from renewable sources, such as corn or potato starch. It has become hugely popular in recent years due to its green credentials. It is just as durable and can be printed on in just the same way as plastic polywrap. It can also be disposed of in home composting bins, food waste recycling or green bins (depending on local authorities). However, it’s not the cheapest wrapping solution. Environmentally-friendly magazine posting is, in this case, more expensive.
Our magazines for Countryside Alliance, Porsche Club GB, British Motorcyclists Federation, British Eventing and British Showjumping are all mailed out in potato-starch polywrap.
Paper enclosing: as detailed above, paper is a sustainable and renewable resource, which is 100% recyclable from kerbside collections by all local authorities. However, wrapping speed can be an issue with paper, particularly when third-party advertising inserts are included in a magazine as these can make the publication bulge.
‘Naked’ mailing: meaning mailing without any wrap, printing the address somewhere on the cover. This is probably the most environmentally friendly option, but means that magazines can’t include third-party advertising inserts – which has a financial impact – and means publications may arrive slightly damaged. People who receive a magazine as a member benefit may be disappointed if the item arrives damaged, not to mention how it might reflect on the brand.
Dickon Ross, editor-in-chief of Engineering & Technology magazine, recently summed up the pros and cons of the different types of wrap for InPublishing magazine. He suggested that although plastic polywrap is technically recyclable, it’s not usually by kerbside collections, so people have to take them to larger recycling points at supermarkets, which isn’t convenient.
He also cited a University of Plymouth study that found so-called biodegradable plastic was still able to hold items after years in the ground and months in the sea. And ‘compostable’ doesn’t necessarily mean it can go in home compost either, as many require industrial composting.
Dickon concluded that paper is the best magazine wrap. It’s easily recyclable, but also presents a large, printable area that can be used for attractive colour images and even advertising. And, as we’ve already explored, paper is sourced in an environmentally friendly way too.
Future innovations in print
Lots of companies are doing exciting things with printed products to make them more eco conscious. For example, Visual Media Conference recently sent out its marketing material in biodegradable envelopes, which contain seeds within the paper itself, so all you need to do is plant and water to enhance the greenery on your doorstep.
When asking ‘are printed magazines sustainable?’, the thing many people don’t realise about print is that it’s actually got great green credentials already. Any future innovations in this space will need to focus on further reducing the industry’s already low carbon footprint, but consumers should feel comfortable in the knowledge that enjoying their favourite magazine in a physical format is not damaging the environment. Just remember to recycle it when you’re finished.