Why Digital Spells Death for Magazines

The digital revolution has been blamed for everything from “kids these days” to widespread astonishment at our recent election results. It’s also been blamed for the demise of print and, in particular, printed magazines.

And it’s hooey.

Sure, the advent of smartphones and the way we consume content has been radically altered by the technology we use. That’s the normal cycle of human development and cultural change. But to blame digital for the massive upheavals in the publishing world isn’t just.

Not many years ago, Apple was banking on a thing called a tablet to revolutionize the way we consume magazines. Publishers were (rightly) frantic to find a solution to remain relevant. Instead, the much-anticipated tablet revolution never materialized. In fact, consumers and advertisers have by and large said “no thanks” to replica editions and magazine content packaged in digital skins.

Yet instead of taking a breath and slowing down to rethink their move toward digital, many publishers – having dumped a huge amount of resources in “making digital work” – find themselves in a rough spot. Do they continue to pursue digital at all costs, perhaps chasing a future that doesn’t exist, or rethink and focus on exactly why consumers said no to digital replicas?

Many did just that, while others forged ahead and gave up print to become exclusively digital publishers.

Big mistake, according to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, writing in MinOnline.

“A magazine that says it is folding its print edition and moving to pure digital is no longer a magazine and chances are it will not only be gone from sight but also from mind. If a magazine can’t survive in print, none of its magazine media will survive. It’s easier to let the magazine go rest in peace than placing it on digital-life support,” he writes.

Digital itself hasn’t been the death of magazines. Failure to adapt to a viable business model has been the larger problem. Consumers want choice, and it’s our job to give it to them.

“There’s almost the same number of Millennials as there are Baby Boomers in the U.S. (approx. 72 million),” Husni notes. “Why can’t you treat both the way my 9-year-old grandson Mr. Magazine Jr. suggested when asked which he preferred, his ink on paper book that he was reading or his iPad that he was playing his football game on? ‘Why do I have to choose?’ he asked.”

Wise kid. Publishers that decided on an exclusively digital delivery of their content made a strategic error. Print still engages, especially for magazine media, and eliminating print magazines was pretty much a huge mistake. Brands are returning to print for one compelling reason: it’s what magazine readers want. Digital didn’t kill print, and it’s time for publishers to start publicly acknowledging that.

“Since I started tracking magazines some 39 years ago, there are at least four times more titles in the marketplace than there was in 1978. So, pick up a magazine, any magazine, and let’s make America read again,” Husni concludes.