Magazines are making the move to digital – can print survive?
Earlier this year it was announced that long-standing music magazine, NME, would be ending its print edition after an impressive 66 years of circulation. Once one of the best–selling magazines in the country, NME became just one in an ever-growing list of publications that had opted to ditch their regular print edition in favour of an exclusive digital presence.
And, they’re not alone. Women’s fashion magazine, Glamour, has taken a ‘digital first’ approach, releasing just two print editions a year compared to their previous monthly offering, Teen Vogue has stopped print editions all together, and it seems that even children’s comics are not safe from the digital revolution.
On its 75th anniversary in 2012, popular comic, The Dandy, announced they would become an online exclusive after sales slumped to less than 8,000 a week. However, even this move could not save this sinking ship as just six months later the magazine ended altogether.
There are a number of reasons why publications are opting to go digital; a drop in sales, printing and shipping costs, environmental considerations. But it has been discovered that distribution costs actually make up for almost 50%* of all financial outgoings when it comes to magazine production.
All of these things are eradicated when a publication goes online, but we don’t think it has to be a choice of one or the other. There are still plenty of reasons why there is still a place or print in people’s hearts…
Reaching different audiences
In what has been a turbulent time in the world of politics, magazines in this genre are still going strong. The likes of Prospect, Private Eye and The Economist, have seen their sales rise by 37%, 8.6% and 5% in the last year.
This is likely to be down to the audience these magazines are aimed at. Like all kinds of media platforms, print and digital magazines have their own demographics. For the older generation, who may not be so tech savvy, these print magazines are still extremely popular.
This can also be seen in the differing topics of magazines. A few years ago, people who wanted to be up-to-date on all of the latest celebrity gossip would head to the likes of Heat magazine, Hello and Closer where as now, people are likely to head online to get this information.
Whether it is browsing the Instagram page of their favourite Kardashian or trawling through the Daily Mail’s infamous sidebar, print magazines are certainly losing out in this area. This is further demonstrated by the fact that sales of these types of titles have been steadily decreasing overtime.
Heat is down 16.6%, Closer is down 19.8% and Grazia is down by 13.4% demonstrating how audience and topicality play a big role in how people consume it.
The sensory experience
As brilliant as digital publications are, for some people nothing less than physically holding a magazine in their hand will do. This might not seem like a big deal but having the ability to tune out of the digital world for a moment and immerse themselves in a printed publication makes for an enjoyable reading experience.
As well as this, many people enjoy collecting magazines and revisiting old editions, something that is a lot more difficult when it comes to digital publications. Occasionally magazines will also provide pull-outs and supplements which make fun additions to magazines but aren’t available in digital publications.
Similarly, many magazines, particularly those aimed at children, regularly come complete with free gifts, collectable items and special editions, something the digital equivalent simply cannot offer.
So, whilst there is no doubting that overall there has been a shift towards digital publications, it is not quite the end of print as we know it. There are plenty of pros and cons for both platforms but the publications who see the most success are often the ones who complement the two.