Why Print Refused to Die

strikeanykeyThe answer is surprising simply. People want it.

“Just a few years ago, it looked as if digital publishing would push print aside. But print refused to die. Why?” asks publishing consultant Jim Elliott in a sponsored post in Folio:.

In analyzing his customer base and taking a deep look at the changing market place, Elliott believes he knows why.

“Some readers want printed magazines,” he states succinctly.

“Except for hard-core technophiles, most people probably would agree that print is simply easier to read with today’s technology.  It is easier to digest printed material (which is why many college students print out chapters of their digital textbooks for serious study),” Elliott notes.

“Printed magazines are portable and do not require any hardware to read them.  Batteries never run out and they arrive with all the data loaded; there is no waiting for a 200 MB file to download.  Magazines can be read in all sorts of environments, including the bathtub. And, for some people, print is a more familiar, comfortable experience.”

There were two major factors at play over the past decade: the digital disruption, and a faltering economy. Consumers were eager to try digital magazines, and publishers were keen to slash production and printing costs.

For some applications, digital does work extremely well.

“…digital issues can be searched electronically making them especially useful for subject matter that has a certain evergreen quality to it,” Elliott notes. “Technically literate readers comfortable with digital media may be more likely to avail themselves of digital editions that offer lower subscription costs or quicker delivery.  Also, fonts can be adjusted for better visibility, which can be a real benefit for readers with vision problems.”

Yet even with those benefits, the pick-up on digital – especially now that the tablet market has slowed considerably – isn’t even close to 10% for consumer magazines.

“In fact, over the past couple of years there has been a trend going the opposite way; digital publishers are starting print magazines. Newsweek now publishes in print after a brief digital-only phase,” Elliott explains.

What’s best for your title? Elliott has some clear advice for publishers trying to sort this all out.

Keep adjusting!” he writes. “In a time when one disruptive technology displaces another even before the market even has a chance to become familiar with the first, it would be foolhardy to predict total dominance for one format or another.

“Both print and digital technologies possess their own advantages.  Readers will adopt the technologies that get the job done for them in each particular situation.  Sometimes readers will choose one over the other; sometimes they will choose both.  It will be important for publishers to keep talking with readers to ensure they provide access to content in the forms their readers prefer.”