January 22, 2014 Last Updated 7:19 am

There is a lot to love about print, ask any digital media pro

The launching of print magazines by some digital media properties has some publishers and media observers scratching their heads. If print is dying why would a digital publisher want launch a print product? The answer is simple enough: print is not dying (though it may be declining).

It is not hard to understand at all why a digital property would launch a print magazine – it is the same reasons a print magazine would launch a website or a tablet edition: brand extension, diversification of products and revenue streams, etc. But a better answer might simply be that coming from a digital media perspective, one more easily sees when print is the answer.

politicocover-featureOccasionally those us intimately involved in digital media find ourselves on the other side of the argument with print publishers when talking about the platform – with digital media pros pointing out that print still offers many things digital still does not (like shelf life, familiarity, authority, etc.). That is not to say that digital platforms can’t have these attributes, as well – just that print really does many things well.

What brings a chuckle, though, is when the conversation turns to efforts to make print more like digital. Publishers that use augmented reality, QR codes, and other efforts to make their products more interactive seem to me to bne missing the point. If one wants an interactive magazine one might consider the platform that does this best, like tablets, rather than trying to cut corners.

I have said for many years that the reason many publishers get locked into their print editions is that they see their product as the print magazine rather than their content or brands. If the print magazine or newspaper is your product – period – then everything else is competing with you. But if it is your content and brand, then you feel free to create many products around that content, including digital ones like mobile and tablet editions, blogs and associated websites. If The Washington Post newspaper IS the product, funding a digital start-up, in others words, seems a foreign idea. But if the news and information generated by the staff of the Post is the product, then packaging that content in infinite ways becomes a logical way to do business.

Not a month goes by that I am not pitched a story about some new product that will make print more like digital. I usually decline. If you want your print magazine to be more like a tablet magazine, I usually ask, why not create a tablet magazine? The answer I am given varies, but the answer I believe is “because this is what I’m selling publishers today.”

I think no one loves and appreciates print more than a digital media pro who has worked in print. When I read stories online from tech sites that denigrate print (or tablet editions) I immediately check out the background of the author – often they are new to the business and have only worked online. Their position, in the end, is no different than that of a print publisher who doubts the future of the web, or mobile, or tablets.

I suppose I should be a little less dogmatic and admit that there may be a place in print for gimmicks that make print act more like digital. But they are, as far as I’m concerned, just that… gimmicks. Like the 3D magazine cover, or the QR code. They probably have their place.

But when you build a tablet magazine you immediately understand that every part of that publication can be interactive – often in ways that are simply not possible in print. But the print magazine has advantages for readers that tablets struggle with, too – like the ability to quickly thumb your way through the print magazine to see what lies within, like the ability to tear out a page, almost without thinking about it, shoving it into your back pocket for referring to later.

Maybe the problem with many print publications today is that they are run by executives who fail to see the value in print. Maybe they should talk to some digital media folks, they’ll tell them why print is still a great platform.

  • I couldn’t agree more! Magazines are about great content in a great context. With digital publishing you can add an amazing new dimension to this, interacting with your readers, matching your content with their profiles, engaging them in co created content and finding other fun and creative ways to serve your readers better than ever! I have been working on such a project with B the One Magazine, the first mass customized women’s magazine in the Netherlands. The real problem was not that it couldn’t be done, or that our readers didn’t appreciate our efforts, but only lack of faith from the side of investors and peer publishers, who could have been our partners. Lack of faith because of our too innovative approach in a struggling market. I just wish there would be publishers out there that get it. How to reach and convince them? Or at least inspire and educate them? Maybe together? For more info on my project: http://www.btheone.nl

  • Gina Testa 4 years ago

    This is such a great perspective on why digital media folks are embracing the idea of print and appreciating it as a complementary platform. It’s a no-brainer these days for print publications to extend their content to a digital property—which lends itself to brand recirculation, sharing breaking news and updated content in real time. So the fact that this is now becoming a two-way street and digital-only media properties are creating print editions really demonstrates a continued interest and appetite for hardcopy. As we move into 2014, it’s great to see so many media options continuing to emerge—like tablet magazines and redesigned websites to appear more like their familiar print versions—and yet traditional options, such as print, are reemerging as a strong necessity within the category. – Gina Testa, Xerox US Graphic Communications Operations, @GinaTesta