Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Print vs. Digital: The Great Mr. Magazine vs. BoSacks Tweet-Off

Two of the U.S. magazine industry's leading pundits, Dr. Samir Husni and Robert Sacks, held an impromptu but insightful debate via Twitter tonight about the extent to which digital media will displace print media.

Husni, AKA "Mr. Magazine", director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, started the friendly argument with this comment about the hilarious French toilet paper ad that Adweek posted yesterday (shown below): This video reminds of a debate I had with my friend Mr. Magazine: some years back. Enjoy

Sacks, AKA BoSacks, took up the gauntlet: I'm glad you remember the good 'ol days. I agree paper has some important & vital uses. But digital reading will be predominate

Mr. Magazine: at least paper never leaves your side when you most needed, below and above 10,000 ft, with or without the cabin's door
open or not

BoSacks: Those minor restrictions will be a faint memory soon. Technology is transitional & as good as it is paper is merely a technology

Mr. Magazine: technology that everyone is trying to replicate.I love digital,I love the web, I love my iPads (yes, iPads), but they are not paper

BoSacks: It is true paper is unique. No matter how hard you press on paper it will not refresh nor update its old & ancient information

Mr. Magazine: Good writers create timely and timeless stuff that becomes an experience in no need to refresh or update? Think War & Peace?

Mr. Magazine: By the way, let the world know that is the first BoSacks/Mr.Magazine™ Twitter Debate. Join in fellow debaters.

BoSacks: Let us agree that War & Peace would be good on any substrate. I'm sure its the words & thinking that matter not the dead trees.

Mr. Magazine: Those trees are alive and happy every time a person holds the books and magazines between their hands and read their pages.

BoSacks: Agreed trees are good to carry thought. But so are other media. Print will not go away,it just won't be the way most people read

Mr. Magazine: Tell that to the WSJ, POLITICO, Hearst, Condé Nast, TIME, National Geo, Meredith and the 10,000 other magazines on the stands...

BoSacks: Print will soon be a luxury item for only those that can afford it.For print to survive it needs to be of excellent quality only 

BoSacks: That fate of the newsstand is happening before our eyes. A downward trend for a decade. There is a plateau but not there yet

BoSacks: All newsstand sales are down with limited exception. Niche or big guy, it is currently headed south. trends tell all

Mr. Magazine: I heard the above more than few years, back."In the next 5 years.." famous Bob's quote. Print + Digital is the Future. Not one way.

BoSacks: nowhere in this conversation did I say 5 years,The future is digital with print as a smaller medium it is now the most expensive 

Mr. Magazine: Have you checked the prices of the magazines? Have you checked the state of the economy? We don't need magazines, we want them?

Mr. Magazine: I was quoting previous conversations my friend... the one that Bo always used: In the next five years this or that will take place

BoSacks: five years ago I was right as the current market conditions have proven. I will be right in the next five and ten years too.

Mr. Magazine: did I hear plastic logic? where do I buy it today? the better than paper, paper?... Cheers and until Sept. All the best

BoSacks: Cheers & good night to all. A delightful debate on twitter. I will now finish watching the Hobbit. An act no paper device can do

Mr. Magazine: Good night. Heading to my bed with six magazines I bought from the newsstands - pure heavenly delight. Experience making @ its best

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Anonymous said...

In my mind the only people who care whether or not something is printed on paper or presented on a screen is the printer and paper manufacturer!

BoSacks said...

I firmly believe that print will not go away any time soon. But that is not the point. The point is that digital is growing and print is not. Forecasts are for there to be 50% less publication paper used by 2020. You should know that the major paper companies agree with this analysis.

What is left in print will be high quality and expensive. That is not a bad place, nor a bad industry to be in. It is just a smaller industry than once was.

The trends and the technology are inescapable. And the technology improves and gets more ubiquitous every minute.

MVP Media said...

Agreed. Add on the companies that are too large to adjust to the transition in publishing while still covering the overhead associated with their bloated print-based business models.

Jim T said...

Quoting Anonymous:
"Anonymous said...
In my mind the only people who care whether or not something is printed on paper or presented on a screen is the printer and paper manufacturer!"

Your mind left out the most important part of the equation, the reader! I hate electronic reading. It's only good for very quick, short blurbs of content. Like this blog.

Nina Gerwin @ Eye Capture said...

You two are too funny (and we all know each other enough to say that). You are both right. And at the same time, both wrong.

No doubt there is a entropic dynamic at play right now in the industry. Given the current set of bantered about data points, I'd say that Bo is right.

But given the set of data points almost always overlooked, that the vast majority of the 280m subs today seem to like print, Samir is right.

Now introduce a new tech app that bridges both worlds in a way never seen before, then we introduce a new variable that will change the course of the industry and lead to somewhere in the middle: print will still exist but not to the degree as today, but it will stay more ubiquitious and affordable for the general reading population versus niche and expensive.

At least, that's our goal at Eye Capture, the mobile app that's powering Redbook's new shoppable design.

Bring the engaging online content like videos, related articles, and ecommerce, and launch that from the magazine pages, and we may just be that new dynamic necessary to push the industry down a different path then the two either/or outlined last night.

Anonymous said...

What is ending is an era of free professional quality digital material. Not only will magazines and newspapers be more expensive with smaller footprints, but the quality of what is available that is new (not archive) on the web for free will be less reliable and of lower quality. The better quality digital material will increasingly be advertorial that has a purpose beyond information.

Karen Brooks said...

Ah, but BoSacks, don't you know that the book is always better than the movie? If you don't, pick up a copy of The Hobbit and find out.

On a more serious note -- most of these debates ignore the fact that digital information has a relatively high cost to entry. Magazines may get more rare and expensive, but tablets, computers, phones, and connectivity generally get more expensive as well. Where does that leave the less well-off among us?

Princeless Ink & Toner said...

More and more young people prefer to read from digital devices and I think over the time, when the paper-reading generation is gone, reading from paper would be a history

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