Opinion: There is epic wastage occurring in publishing and I’m not talking about paper

Waste not want not with Third Drawer Down's tube wringer
Waste not want not with Third Drawer Down’s tube wringer.

Wastage is a hot topic right now. Programs like the ABC’s War on Waste have drawn attention to the 30 million bendy bananas that are thrown away each year because they don’t fit Coles and Woollies specifications. Many of us saw, and were revolted by, the image of Henderson Island covered with 38 million pieces of plastic.

On the flipside, there are the startups and entrepreneurs who are seeing wasted and under-utilised resources and creating exciting businesses.

There’s Airbnb which allows people to rent out their spare bedroom or vacant house to travellers, Parkhound which allows people to rent out their empty parking spaces, Reground which collects coffee waste from cafes and turns it into fertiliser, Streetbank which allows you share things with your neighbours – the list goes on.

Is there a resource that’s being under-utilised in publishing? You bet.

The goldmine that’s gathering dust

My TV sits on a glass bench under which there are at least 150 copies of Real Living, Inside Out, Frankie, Peppermint, Fete and Collective gathering dust. These magazines are all at least 6 months old because a while ago I switched all my subscriptions over to Zinio.  I still like to keep these hard copies for reference though – and admittedly, (very) occasional craft activities for resident pre-schoolers.

If you’ve read one of these magazines you’ll know that the amount of products and the number of stores featured in these magazines – in particular, the interiors mags – is frankly, eye watering. The amount of money invested in creating the content, equally so.

Most of us view this beautiful content when we’re in ‘relaxing mode’. You might be on the couch, Pinot in hand, flipping through a mag and daydreaming about the new kitchen you’d like one day when childcare fees aren’t breaking you. You may want to read some good yarns about people doing interesting and inspiring things. Or you may just be in the mood to get your visual jollies feasting on some beautiful imagery.

In each of these magazines, we’re exposed to 100s if not 1000s of products, yet while we’re reading, the vast majority of us aren’t actively wanting to shop.

Fast forward a fortnight. Now you’re actually in the market for a new salad bowl and a pair of winter shoes. You know you’ve seen some amazing salad bowls in Real Living and heaps of great brogues in Frankie. Will you pull out these old issues and flip back through to find the pictures? No you won’t. Ain’t nobody got time for that. You’ll rely on your memory -shallow, leaky vessel that it is – retaining only around 3-5 brand names in each category (see our previous article about the convenience customer for more on this).

If only there was an easy way to retrieve that beautiful content at the point when you ACTUALLY needed to buy products?

This is what I want to see when I need to buy a salad bowl. Photo credit: Real Living Magazine. Photography: @mareehomer.photography Styling: @sarah_ellison_stylist
This is what I want to see when I need to buy a salad bowl. Photo credit: Real Living Magazine. Photography: @mareehomer.photography Styling: @sarah_ellison_stylist
This is what I want to see when I want to buy new shoes. Photo credit: Frankie Magazine Photographer: @brihammond
This is what I want to see when I want to buy new shoes. Photo credit: Frankie Magazine Photographer: @brihammond

Magazines and blogs should be squeezing more value from their content

Magazines spends thousands of dollars in every issue producing beautiful content featuring products, yet they are wasting an opportunity to allow their readers to easily access it when they’re ready to shop. Not only that, they’re wasting an opportunity to earn $ by allowing the brands they feature – independent and mainstream -to use that premium content to market their products.

Millions of $ worth of beautiful imagery created by stylists and photographers, with the potential to drive millions of $ worth of product sales, remains locked inside old print magazines underneath my TV, its potential to make money for its publisher, for the most part, gone because the products have been discontinued.

Just because a blog is searchable doesn’t mean it’s easy to find products. Go to your favourite interior or design blog and search for ‘tablecloth’ or your favourite fashion blog and search for ‘brogues’. Chances are the top result will be a post from 2013. If you’re lucky enough to find a recently-featured product through site search, it will take you about 10 clicks to actually find if it’s still available, and how much it is. Comparing multiple products is deflatingly labour intensive.

Design is the answer

Imagery is the currency of the web; our obsession with Instagram is testament to that. And if imagery is the currency of the web, businesses who create beautiful visual content, like interiors magazines and design blogs, deserve to be thriving. Publishers who create premium content visual featuring stores and products should be re-using their content – and earning from it – in the context of a platform designed specifically for shopping. By doing so, they could be driving many more sales to the retailers they feature – independent and otherwise – and making a real contribution to the success of these businesses.

We have an exciting change in the pipeline to enable publishers to do just this. Stay tuned.


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