What does the end of the cannabis print age mean for businesses?
The decline of cannabis-specific media sources in recent years signifies a pivotal shift in both the business and cultural climate of cannabis.
For years, counterculture cannabis publications played a significant role in both education and activism. Then, in the early days of cannabis legalization, niche publications played another crucial role. They provided much-needed information, advocacy, and community support. Publications like Dope Magazine and Civilized. were not just magazines; they were lifelines to a community. While publications like Green Entrepreneur and Terpenes and Testing served as resources for an industry grappling with legal, societal, and business challenges. As pioneers in a nascent industry, these media sources became synonymous with the cannabis movement, educating readers about everything from legal developments to strain reviews. But those companies and many other recognizable names have all gone the way of the buffalo.
While a handful of resources have sustained, even the most prolific name in cannabis media, High Times, has repeatedly seen turmoil in recent years. After being sold in 2017, the company found itself in legal trouble and facing sanctions from the Securities and Exchange Commission for defrauding investors in late 2023.
The decline of the majority of these niche publications is, in many ways, closely tied to the broader acceptance and legalization of cannabis.
As cannabis becomes more mainstream, the need for specialized publications has diminished. General lifestyle, business, and news outlets now cover cannabis-related stories, integrating them into the wider conversation rather than segregating them into a niche category. This mainstreaming is a double-edged sword; it represents progress and acceptance but also dilutes the focused voice and community that niche publications have offered.
Impact on Cannabis Businesses
For businesses in the cannabis space, this shift presents both challenges and opportunities:
- Broader Audience Reach: Mainstream media coverage allows cannabis businesses to reach a wider audience. This can be particularly beneficial for companies looking to break stereotypes and appeal to a more diverse customer base.
- Loss of Targeted Marketing Platforms: Niche magazines provided a targeted platform for cannabis businesses to reach their core audience. Their decline means that these businesses must now find new ways to connect with their specific market segment.
- Increased Competition: With cannabis becoming part of the general discourse, businesses face increased competition, not just from within the cannabis industry but also from larger, established companies venturing into this space.
- Regulatory Challenges: Specialized publications often provided guidance and updates on the ever-changing legal landscape of cannabis. Their decline could mean a gap in easily accessible, industry-specific regulatory information for businesses.
The future of cannabis media and business is evolving towards a more integrated approach. Cannabis companies must adapt to this new landscape by diversifying their marketing strategies, engaging with broader media outlets, and leveraging digital and social media platforms more effectively. The challenge lies in maintaining the community and advocacy spirit that characterized the early days of cannabis media while navigating a more generalized and competitive market.
As traditional cannabis magazines decline, digital and social media platforms are becoming increasingly vital. These platforms offer a way to engage with consumers in real time. While everyone likes a tangible product, the reality is that in an industry that creates waste and evolves rapidly, most cannabis publications are years behind.
The need for education and building community extends beyond a monthly approach. However, navigating digital media comes with its own set of challenges. Most cannabis companies have, at one point or another, experienced the heavy hand of social media’s Terms of Service, seeing accounts restricted or completely deleted and often losing months or years of brand building and connections in the wake. And while cannabis has become more mainstream, the mainstream is slower to accept cannabis businesses. Businesses must be creative and strategic in their digital presence to effectively find and reach their audience.
One lesson that many cannabis brands are learning, not every viewer is a potential customer.
The decline of cannabis-specific media sources reflects the maturing of the cannabis industry and its assimilation into mainstream culture. While this presents new challenges for cannabis businesses, it comes, to some degree, with the promise of broader acceptance and growth potential.
The key to success in this changing landscape is adaptability and the ability to identify and connect not just with the community but with your intended audience. As the cannabis industry continues to shift, so too must the strategies of those businesses within it.