Why Print Matters to Digital-Only Publishers

digitalmag1Most of us might assume that digital-only publishers have little to no stake in the success or failure of printed titles. We might expect them to be blissfully unaffected by physical distribution issues at the newsstand, rising postal rates and the surging cost of paper. We’d be wrong, according to D. B. Hebbard in Talking New Media.

Both digital-only and print-and-digital publishers share a common concern for the future of print distribution, as well as other issues such as the management of digital newsstands and the growth of tablet advertising, Hebbard insists.

“My concern,” Hebbard quotes a digital publisher as saying, “is that with less print magazines out there it will be harder for my software company to make money. They make only a few dollars each month off me, but thousands of dollars each month off the big guys.”

In other words, the service industry that supports print magazines—and digital magazines to some degree—needs the revenue of the “big guys” (i.e. print titles) to continue to operate and innovate. This digital publisher acknowledges that his small title can’t make that happen on its own. The service he relies on would cease to exist without print.

Hebbard stresses that for this reason, it’s incumbent on digital publishers to stay abreast of the situations that impact the print publishing world, as it will trickle down to them sooner or later. And Hebbard feels that the established industry associations have a unique opportunity for engaging these digital publishers as partners and advocates.

“This is why it would be wise for the traditional print magazine trade associations to begin reaching out to the new, independent digital publishers. Many of the issues concerning them – like the condition of the digital newsstands, circulation audits, tablet advertising – concern their existing members, too,” notes Hebbard. “Digital-only publishers may talk badly about their print counterparts when it comes to their digital publishing efforts, but they remain natural allies in the fight to attract readers, grow ad revenue, and produce profitable publishing products.”