It's a fact as universally recognised as gravity that print is dead.
Since the dawn of the internet and the invention of the iPad, the circulation and revenue of nearly every print publication on the planet has fallen like a rock.
But last year, Future's Official PlayStation Magazine's print circulation actually rose. And not by a tiny amount, either. The mag saw a 9.6 per cent jump to 26,659 average monthly readers.
Getting a rise of any kind in recent years has been tough,” says editor Matthew Pellett (pictured).
The last time it happened was back in 2010. We had a really positive year in 2014 when we became the No.1 games magazine for the first time since the PS2 days. PS4 was in such a good place that I was always secretly hopeful that we would be able to push the magazine further.”
But the question on everyone's lips is how Pellett and his team have defied the narrative surrounding print journalism.
The readers are the biggest part of this,” he says. Without them this would not have happened. And we're fortunate that the PlayStation community is amazing and the OPM readers have always shown us great support. We've shaped the mag around them and what they want.”
"I'd challenge the idea that print is dead.
The numbers aren't as good as they were,
but that's a natural evolution."
Matthew Pellett, Official PlayStation Magazine
OPM is of course focused upon PS4, the current leader in the console space with around 36 million units sold worldwide.
Sony has done an incredible job this generation,” Pellett says.
There was naturally some trickle-down from the PS4's success. It definitely helps that the PS4 is the biggest console of the generation. Its rate of success is better than the PS2, so that definitely played a part.”
But the success of the machine can't be the sole reason for the rise in print circulation, otherwise OPM's digital numbers would also be increasing (they in fact fell 2.1 per cent). There are undeniable benefits to print. As Pellett points out, you can take the magazine in the bath unlike an iPad or laptop. And there's a lot more that you can do with some really great art.
I'd definitely challenge the idea that print is dead,” he says. I don't agree with that at all. Yes, the numbers haven't been as good as they were back in the day. The climate has changed and shifted and that's a natural evolution.”
At the moment, Pellett says that OPM's audience features real variety. There are people who have been around since the days of the original PlayStation and some whose first ever console is the PS4.
It's a big mix and it's our job to strike a balance and keep everyone happy,” Pellett says We've had a really nice run – Final Fantasy and Ratchet & Clank – some real PlayStation heritage covers.. It's really fun, having to get that different mix of covers and content to keep everyone happy.”
Even if print isn't dying, there's no denying that this sector has suffered incredible difficulties. The result of the popularity of online news and new media like YouTube has meant that the magazines which survived are better than ever out of necessity.
Every magazine has to be good to survive. You can't afford to not be great,” Pellett insists.
If you try and put out a product that isn't good enough, then you'll get found out and it just won't survive. It's a harsh reality. But that's great because there's almost an unspoken guarantee for these people who go out and buy mags, because they know they're going to get something that's good. It's our job to make sure that every single mag is the best it can possibly be.”
And, looking forward to 2016, is Official PlayStation Magazine going to see yet another sizeable increase in sales next year?
It's something I would like to happen, of course,” Pellett says.
We have big ambitions and are building on a great foundation. It would be idiotic of me to say: ‘we'll definitely do it again'. We need to make sure that each month we are putting out a better magazine than the one before. With the games that are coming out and the team we have in place, I hope we can do that.
(Clockwise from top left: Production editor Westbrook, managing art editor Cuppock,and staff writers Simpkins and Tyrer)
NO I IN TEAM
During 2015, OPM saw some line-up changes. The publication hired two staff writers and these journalists have helped develop OPM's relationship with its audience.
New starters bring their own perspective and [staff writers] Jen Simpkins and Ben Tyrer have really joined the team in the best way possible,” editor Matthew Pellett says.
They have begun talking with readers loads, interacting with them and starting up gaming sessions. That's something I always wanted to do, but we couldn't do it before because we didn't have time. Now we are able to do things like that. It's exciting to bring fresh blood into the magazine.
We've also brought in some new freelancers as well, so we have a few different faces who are just beginning to emerge in the magazine.”
Competition in the games media is fierce and the magazines are no exception.
As a result, print publications need to put a real effort on presentation to entice potential buyers.
Walk into a shop and there's shelves full of magazines and they're all bright and screaming for your attention, so how do you begin to stand out?” asks OPM editor Matthew Pellett.
Last year, we mixed up our strategy slightly in terms of our cover games and how we put the packaging together. Also we introduced a couple of gifts that we haven't done before, console decals, and lightbar decals – they went down well.”
He continues: At the end of the day you sell magazines because of packaging. Our managing art editor, Milford Cuppock, made some incredible cardboard wallets with loads of great artwork. And that is one of the biggest factors why we did so well last year.”
That's on top of extra content that Pellett and the team put together for two magazines – its E3 issue and another celebrating its 20th Anniversary.
We did a magazine and a thick supplement for each,” Pellett says. That was a lot of work. We made an magazine during E3 and t