It seems to be an everyday occurrence that we hear of the decline and demise of traditional publishing industries. Print media in the form of newspapers, magazines and books appear to be dying a long drawn out slow death. This general impression of an industry in terminal health appears to be accepted wisdom by now, but do the facts and truth point to the same inescapable conclusion?
Even as recently as April 2012, a survey conducted by Deloitte found that 88% of magazine readers in the UK still prefer to consume articles in print and not electronically.This doesn’t prove anything conclusive though, one only needs to ask the question “what about all those others that already don’t read a print magazine?”
Going back further, Deloitte’s State-of-the-Media survey found that out of 2,276 UK consumers between the ages of 14 to 75, 50% owned a smartphone and yet 35% of them still subscribed to at least one magazine in 2011. Things move fast in the post dot com media industry though. One could also question whether these findings are already out of date by the time they’re released, as adoption of tablet devices have risen sharply recently.
We have also seen a remarkable improvement in the quality of digital publications, combined with the technical capabilities of digital devices since 2011. Digital publishing is no longer about replicating the print experience, with innovations in an immersive multimedia experience seamlessly integrated with reading content now the norm. It is now the era of iBooks and Kindle enhanced edition eBooks.
Still print, but not as we know it
Ironically, although the age of the internet has led directly to some high-profile print closures in recent years, the economics of the internet age combined with the power of mass communications has now enabled a mini-renaissance in independent print titles catering to distinctive and unique tastes in publishing.
It almost seems that the mainstream publishers have let the print industry and its consumers down. Individuals with an opinion are already comfortable writing blogs and sharing their views on social networks. It only takes the next logical step where they want to create something permanent, in print and creating better publications to targeted audiences.
Google joins the print bandwagon
Don’t be fooled into thinking only amateurs and niche content creators are still at it. Surprisingly, even some of the internet’s big success stories, and even Google itself, are now publishing print magazines. This might appear counter-intuitive at first until you realise the power of post-web publishing. Google, the internet and information juggernaut once accused of killing off the print medium forever with its Google Books Project, aimed at digitising all print publications in existence, now has its own print journal in order to reach and refresh the parts of their business model that other solutions can’t reach.
Savvy internet operators have cottoned on to the idea that it’s not about an on-line/offline content strategy dichotomy. Both vehicles have pros and cons and the best combination in terms of reach, brand impact and good business ultimately comes down to getting an optimal communication mix that involves both on-line/digital media as well as traditional print. It may be something as simple as the sheer permanence of the print medium; if you leave a magazine lying around on a reception table in an office, chances are someone will flick through it throughout the day, whereas articles in digital form, however interesting and attention grabbing, will get lost at the end of the day when you switch off your computer or device unless you take a hard copy by dumping it to a printer.
At the end of the day we live in a physical world. There’s just no permanence in bits and bytes, but you can forever see, feel and touch a print publication. One can’t argue with that.
David Malone is a blogger at www.document-options.co.uk as well as holding a keen interest in print and digital technologies. When he is not promting his digital print services Brighton, he enjoys technical drawing and mechanics.