Can You Believe What You Read?

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By Rebecca Barnes, Publisher, Prince William Living magazine

That’s the title of one of the slides I use at Lunch with the Publisher, where, among other things, we go over why businesses still advertise in print magazines: “Can you believe what you read?”

When an article is in a locally owned, locally produced, professional print magazine like Prince William Living (online at #PWLiving), the answer is yes. Here’s why, along with why you should care.

#PWLiving has a stake in the game…and in the community

In general, locally owned businesses are vested, not just professionally, but personally. It’s a whole lot easier to rip someone off when you don’t have to see them in the supermarket. It’s a whole lot easier to lie to someone when your kids don’t go to the same schools. And it’s a whole lot easier to take someone’s money and vanish when you’re not really rooted in the community.

Remember, too, that print is an investment. As a publisher, I pay big money to make sure Prince William Living looks good, reads well and gets distributed. Plus, through Give Back Prince William, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we give back to the community.

#PWLiving is credible and trustworthy by default

Print is still the number one credibility builder. Why? Samir A. Husni, Ph.D. at the University of MS School of Journalism explains in his interview with some big names in marketing, research, publishing and printing.

Outside of this research, most people know it’s pretty easy to hide online. It’s easy to be anonymous. Anyone can  put out a blog or a “news” site, use no name or a fake name and say just about anything they want with very few long-term repercussions. If the heat gets too high, just close shop and move on.

As someone who has gone public in print and online, I couldn’t easily disappear, even if I wanted to (which I don’t, of course). As someone who has gone public in the D.C. metro region, I especially couldn’t do it easily (think three-letter agencies). No, when you’ve got a print magazine that’s also online, you can’t cut and run. Not only are there laws that deter it, there are logistics that discourage it. There is literally a paper trail. We couldn’t just stop the presses. It’s not that simple. That’s what separates us from other outlets.

#PWLiving has values and values you

Our readership is pretty awe-inspiring, and I’d be more than hard pressed to do something unethical that would hurt our readership or advertisers. Consider these stats from Bob Provost, Distinguished Executive In Residence at Rutgers Business School:

  • The typical news media website visit is measured in five minutes or less and with fewer page views than the fingers you can show on two hands.

  • The average engagement with a print magazine or newspaper is 20 minutes or more and generally involves several dozen page views.

Now, I doubt I would be able to abruptly close our business doors and stifle my conscience even if just one person spent less than five minutes reading Prince William Living before hopping over to their favorite nefarious website. But I’d have to be morally bankrupt to disregard our local audience of more than 75,000 per month, folks reading our print and online magazine again and again.

#PWLiving and you: We’re stuck with each other, and that’s a good thing

No, I’m in this for the long haul, and I’m in it with the intention of producing something worth holding on to – which people do. You can find well-loved issues of Prince William Living throughout the county, cities and beyond because people hold on to them. That makes me – and our advertisers – very happy.

The next time you read something, online or otherwise, ask yourself. Who’s the publisher? How long have they been in the community, and what do they know about it? Do they invest in the community? Do they have a stake in the game? Is the publication secondary to another business or motive? What’s the mission of the publication? Are the sources in the articles credible? Is the content professionally written and produced?

If you can’t answer those questions or you don’t like the answers, then it might be time to ask yourself, “Can you believe what you read?” And if you don’t like the answer to that question, it’s probably time to change what you’re reading.


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