Should Publishers Push Either Digital or Print?

printvsdigitalFor some of us, it’s pretty hard to be platform agnostic. Us print geeks find ourselves longing to read a format that we can touch, feel and yes, smell (an associate admitted that when her most recent issue of Southern Living magazine arrived, the first thing she did was hold it up to her face and take a deep breath). Yet we admit that taking a less subjective approach makes sense when developing or refining a business model.

“A lot of B2B publishers talk about trying to move their subscribers off of print. For some it’s almost an ideological thing, but typically they do this for a number of very practical reasons, including …To save the cost of printing and mailing; To avoid following print to its oft-foretold grave; To take advantage of the things digital delivery can offer, like speed, the ability to collect more data, the “social sharing” options, etc.,” writes Greg Krehbiel in his Krehbiel Report on Publishing.

Krehbiel recommends a more straightforward approach; if your readers want print, give them print. Don’t force them to move to digital if they prefer otherwise. He suggests publishers take a “we don’t care” stance on delivery.

The challenge is that the price (for print or digital) is not based on some formula of actual costs plus a reasonable profit. Rather, as Krehbiel points out, it’s based on what readers are willing to pay. And in a subscription-based magazine model, that is especially salient.

“Publishers could try to educate consumers about actual costs so they can justify their prices, but that’s usually a bad idea. You’re trying to sell something, not to educate people about your problems — which they don’t care about in any event,” he notes.

“This means that real prices determined by the market will probably never line up with publisher costs. (There’s no real reason that they should.) And that means that publishers can’t be agnostic about delivery method — because the publisher will inevitably make more money in one format than in another,” he concludes.

Because of the public conception of the miniscule cost of creating a digital file, print will always be “worth more” to readers. Fortunately print advertisers also feel this way, so some parity can be reached to keep the true value of the content – on any platform – from being lost in the shuffle.