Richard Turen
Richard Turen

You may have noticed that print media is in a rather sad state of decline. I am not referring to quality; I am referring to the percentage of clients who will actually read an article in print.

Every study shows that we are reading less -- and that what we are reading is being inhaled on our smartphones or other mobile devices where tiny screens squeeze the size of text and images alike, perhaps to match our diminished attention spans.

This has some profound implications for the retail agency. The selling process in travel has always been defined by sleek images framing a story. If you belong to a consortium, it is likely that your clients are being sent colorful print magazines and marketing brochures. But are they reading them? Are they keeping them on the coffee table? Do our clients even have coffee tables anymore?

This is the digital age, an era when seeing Egypt's pyramids on a tiny screen the size of an empty man's wallet is considered preferable to actually viewing them in person or even just seeing them in high-definition on a screen that takes up half the living room wall. Somehow, smaller is better.

I have clients who are well spread out geographically. They are in 48 states and a few countries, so they represent a fairly good cross section of upscale travelers. Most range in age from their 50s to 70s, and I can count the millennials on one hand. So when I sent out our new digital newsletter, I had anticipated that the vast majority would be reading it on a computer. Not an Apple computer, just some sort of Dell or HP.

But I was wrong. Very wrong. And it woke me up to something I had missed. The majority of my "should be driving golf balls not automobiles" clients were reading our newsletter on their smartphones. The exact figure was 64%.

You would think that would leave 36% reading our monthly newsletter on their computer, but no, that was not the case. About 20% opened it on a tablet, meaning that a whopping 84% of all our clients are reading the newsletter on a mobile device. The computer was a distant third.

These figures have held true for the past year. There has been a lot going on in the more than 15 years we've been together, but the idea that computer use is now passe just sort of passed me by. I want to be certain that you are aware of this fact.

There are implications. We can frame our corporate voice in print. But anything you produce on your own for your client's viewership must now be formatted by a professional who knows how to make your text and your photos fit on a smartphone. They will have to click to manage your content, as the smartphone can only show a single column. Your photos will take up a much higher percentage of page space, perhaps all of it.

So the message is this: You need to personalize your voice by private, self-written communications with your clients. But now, you will, in addition, have to be certain that you are using technology that will enable your words to be read by the vast majority of your clients on a tiny, hand-held screen. Your work must be framed specifically for this purpose.

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