Time Magazine: Possibly the most famous print magazine. Photo: Tony Fischer / CC BY 2.0
Tuesday 31 March

Reshaping Print In The Digital Age

There’s no doubt that print media went through an enormous period of uncertainty following the increasing reliance on the digital world for everything from news to advertising. The stats don’t make pretty reading, with national newspaper sales almost halving within the last fifteen years, with significant dips evident following the launch of dial-up Internet, broadband household penetration hitting 68% and the emergence of smartphones. However, it is little coincidence that the print industry has not only survived one of the biggest technological advances in history, but has begun to claw back some of the territory it lost in the battle.

Why Digital Publishers Have Come Back To Print

In business, it is essential to adapt in order to survive. Imagine if Ford had manufactured nothing but the Ford Cortina since 1967, would people still buy it when every other car company were creating faster, slicker, more energy efficient and better looking vehicles? Of course not. Evolution is an essential practice in any industry, and there are few better examples of an industry evolving to suit the times than with print. Whereas it was expected for the digital market to render print useless, it has in fact created more print opportunities in several sectors. Digital publishers such as Politico, Pitchfork and Pando have all recreated their online publications for the physical page. These new ranges of ‘premium magazines’ are extremely effective in creating and maintaining different avenues of communication with customer bases, benefitting from what Paul Carr, an editor at technology blog Pando, calls “the innate gravitas of print.” Rather than trying to attract large-scale markets, these publications have had great success in creating incredibly high quality magazines with lower circulations aimed at a niche market. Pitchfork’s print magazine, for example, only produced 10,000 copies of its winter edition. This high-quality, premium-price, lower circulation business model has ensured a newfound level of success in the print industry, ensuring publications no longer need a large readership to turn a profit.

The Inherent Benefits of Print

The companies that made the decision to return to print have not only reaped the rewards of an industry in a constant state of improvement, but have also re-tapped in to some of the innately unique benefits of print that digital just cannot match. The customer base of printed publications are far more loyal and focused, with statistics showing that both time spent reading and time spent per-page are far higher with printed publications. Advertisers have also noted this trend, with adverts in printed publications providing a far healthier return-on-investment than any other medium. Online advertisements are constantly battling against a host of other distractions, as well as the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what audience it is they are reaching. An advert on a news article, for example, may have reached the page via Twitter, Facebook, a specific subject blog or directly from the site itself. That same article printed in a magazine will offer the opportunity to connect with that specific, niche audience in a far more effective and personalised way.

With an audience full of benefits to both publisher and advertiser, the print industry, when handled correctly, can be an incredibly healthy marketplace. Printed publications are no longer a market of high-numbers and mass markets. Rather, the public now requires a premium product at a premium price in smaller, but far more loyal numbers.

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