July 11, 2014 Last Updated 10:39 am

Digital-only publishers not oblivious to condition of print magazine distribution

Both digital-only and print-and-digital publishers share a common concern for the future of print distribution, as well as other issues such as the management of digital newsstands and the growth of tablet advertising

During the past week, when the topic was not the World Cup, I’ve had discussions with digital-only publishers who expressed concern about the growing mess that is magazine distribution. “What is going on?” one publisher of a recently released new digital magazine asked. “Are we seeing the end of print magazines?”

I assured that publisher that “no, we are not seeing the end” – though I did say that postage and newsstand issues might accelerate the demise of a number of already weak titles.

BN-magrack-1I, of course, come originally from the print side of things, many publishers I talk to do not. This surprises many in the print world who, for some reason, think that everyone concentrating on digital come originally from print. Sorry, just like few were born in the days of horse and buggy, and only think “cars”, many in publishing today have entered our professional only thinking “digital”.

This becomes obvious when you look at many of the new digital-only magazines being created. While print publishers consider the printed page layout as just as important as the content itself, many digital publishers are one and two person operations, often with none of the players have a background in design. The result is usually a preference for less complex layouts, more blog-like.

But not having a background in print does not mean the new publishers are not concerned with the print world. Yes, they see their futures tied to digital, but that doesn’t mean they don’t pick up the occasional print magazine.

“My concern,” a publisher told me (I’ll be honest, I can’t remember which one) “is that with less print magazines out there it will be harder for my software company to make money. They make only a few dollars each month off me, but thousands of dollars each month off the big guys.”

This site doesn’t concern itself with the issues of print magazine distribution, but it keeps its eye on the situation. Likewise, digital-only publishers do, as well. This is why it would be wise for the traditional print magazine trade associations to begin reaching out to the new, independent digital publishers. Many of the issues concerning them – like the condition of the digital newsstands, circulation audits, tablet advertising – concern their existing members, too. Digital-only publishers may talk badly about their print counterparts when it comes to their digital publishing efforts, but they remain natural allies in the fight to attract readers, grow ad revenue, and produce profitable publishing products.

  • Phil Hood 4 years ago

    It’s a nice thought but some print and digital publishers share little in common, as your comment about 1-2 man operations attests. Nothing digital publishers can do will help print magazine sales which are not stabilizing, or ad sales, which will never reach previous heights.