Stay Connected!

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In the Q and A after a recent speech I gave to architects and contractors in Portland, Maine, I was asked, “How’s the media business doing?” In my job, I travel a lot, producing and attending trade shows and conferences, talking to you, probing your interests and concerns and writing about the business of traditional building and design. I’m more used to asking questions than answering them, especially questions about the media business.

However, the query in Maine got me thinking that perhaps you’d like a glimpse of how people are engaging with the media as they research, learn, and even get inspired about restoration, renovation and period-style new construction. What we as media professionals know about connecting with readers can help you connect with clients.

DHARMA (Digital Heritage Architectural Research and Material Analysis) Lab students use high-tech three-dimensional scanning equipment to make super-accurate records of this most important historic site. Student work was included in an April 2014 exhibition at the Roman Curia (former Senate House) co-sponsored by the Italian government.

Smart phone usage is projected to grow from 469 million users in 2011 to 1.5 billion by 2016, a 200% increase. Tablets are expected to increase their penetration from 67 million in 2011 to about 500 million in 2016. These are just two trends quantified by eMarketer, a think tank about digital media.

People are spending more time connected, and they want their content on the move. They expect us, and you, to deliver content on demand, across all media platforms. And according to new research by Old-House Journal magazine, if readers are really interested in your content, they will consume it any way they can get it: in print; on the Web; on TV; through digital magazines; at trade shows and conferences; in e-newsletters and on You Tube, Facebook and Twitter, in that order of preference and usage.

There will be more competition for eyeballs because consumers have more media options at their finger tips. Advertising will move to tablets more than it will to cell phones. The sale of magazine subscriptions and single copies delivered on tablets continues to grow, especially among women. E-commerce will be interwoven with content. Web sites will continue to be used as research vehicles.

Knowing more about our clients and readers will be critical, especially because they know so much more about us. Having a rich database that tells us about their likes and dislikes, as well as their spending habits, is very important. Much of our communication is with people, clients and readers, who often don’t reveal themselves. So giving them a reason to engage with us and share about themselves is a high priority, and it’s best done by offering them content they really want, in exchange for capturing their contact information.

Are digital media killing print? This is a question many of you have asked me over the last few years. I answer the question by asking another: Has instant coffee killed fresh ground coffee?

To really connect, print media, particularly specialized trade magazines like Clem Labine’s Period Homes and Clem Labine’s Traditional Building,will increasingly become premium products, high-end conveyors of richly produced content. That reality will distinguish them from other types of media, which may become more like commodities, fresh ground coffee set apart from the instant stuff available everywhere.