Which are better, printed magazines or digital magazines? I’ve heard some passionate arguments on both sides of the question.
For those of us in the publishing industry, there’s only one correct response: It's a stupid question.
The real issue for us: What does the customer want (and what is she willing to pay for)?
With apologies to my friends in the printing and paper industries, publishers are not in the business of creating printed products. We’re in the business of informing, entertaining, and advertising; the medium is just the means to an end.
Fellow print lovers, it’s time to stop pretending that electronic publications aren’t real magazines or that print is always superior to digital.
The healthiest approach is to drop the either/or thinking and recognize that printed magazines are a niche medium. A niche product cannot be all things to all people, but it can do some things for some people that no other product can do.
Print publications are subject to postal delays and don't have hot links to related articles. E-readers don't stand up well to a cup of spilled coffee or a day at the beach. An iPad app isn't much good to a NOOK owner. Browser-based editions seem convenient, unless you don’t have a wi-fi connection.
But they all have their place. They can all be profitable niches.
In an article published today in Publishing Executive magazine (34 Tricks Print Mags Can Do That Apps Can’t), I point out many of the things publishers can do with printed magazines that they can’t do, or do very well, with electronic editions.
I left out a few obvious ones – like posters, cover wraps, refrigerator magnets, blow-in cards, and polybagging. And not-so-obvious ones that were suggested by members of the Print Production Professionals LinkedIn group, like augmented reality, swatting flies, and training puppies. I’m sure I’ll hear about plenty more omissions.
In the same issue, Noelle Skodzinski, Publishing Executive’s web-savvy editor, chimes in with a thoughtful piece called Have You Forsaken Print?
Printed magazines have a future if we publishers can avoid false dichotomies (“Print is dead.” “No, print is best.”) and focus on exploiting the unique strengths of each medium.