The Future of Custom Publishing

Online content marketing may be grabbing all the glory,
but is there still a need for print?

Custom publishing and content marketing—are they the same or different? Let’s start by explaining what each is, then we can work from there.

Time for a breakdown

According to the Custom Content Council, custom publishing is a merging of a company’s marketing ambitions with its information needs that is geared to a targeted audience, and this can be delivered as editorial content in a variety of mediums.

Content marketing is also a way to communicate about your product or new opportunities for your company, all while reinforcing your brand. Typically, this content is customized for each client to specifically address the needs of their audience or customer base.

If the two aren’t exactly the same beast, let’s just say they exist in the same barnyard.

Custom publishing’s past

If you have any background in custom publishing, you probably first think of in-flight airline magazines when talk turns to that topic. Those publications were the cornerstone of this type of marketing for decades and set the tone for what consumers expected from these magazines. But they weren’t the first. That honor goes to John Deere. Yup the farm equipment company created, The Furrow magazine, in the final decade of the 19th century to give farmers ideas on how to increase their profitability.

The real problem with custom publishing is it was probably never the ideal name for what it was. Content marketing is closer to the mark because these custom magazines created content to help market a company’s products and services.

Today, the world of custom publishing encompasses everything from so-called “city magazines” to those geared to be lifestyle magazines created to promote companies in the fields of real estate, jewelry or even food.

What the future holds

While the world of print has definitely changed, custom publishing hasn’t gone away. For instance, the popularity of city magazines has held steady, despite a falling off of ad dollars. To manage that shortfall, these publishers have embraced even more custom publishing options including developing guides for city and state visitors’ bureaus and associations.

Still not sure which option is right for your company or client? Your decision is probably something your customer base can (and should) answer for you. Ask them how they prefer to receive information—via print, online such as ebooks or blog posts, infographics or even video. Whichever format the bulk of your customers take a shine to, your focus must be to establish yourself as a thought leader, which will earn their respect, and to attract, nurture and retain new customers.