The battle continues: Digital vs Print

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the online world. Time to switch off, slow down and relax with a printed magazine

In early June 2011, The Digital Publisher, a division of HJ Marketing Ltd, published a white paper on ‘the benefits of digital publishing’ for magazine publishers. The report raised some very interesting points that magazine publishers will no doubt be taking note of. 

Some of the benefits are of course pretty obvious. Digital magazines have the ability to reach a wider audience, of course, as the circulation is not limited by print runs, only by access to the internet. The lack of paper, print and postage costs also makes them cheaper to produce for the publisher and often they are free to the reader.

They can also be far more interactive than print magazines as they have the ability to incorporate embedded rich media such as videos, audio files, animations and live links allowing you to click straight through to other sites. 

This also makes them more dynamic than print magazines as the use of animation and Flash technology means that adverts, for example, are more likely to grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to click.  

Digital magazines also have the advantage that they can quickly harness the benefits of new technology as and when it hits the market. They can adapt quickly to the numerous new digital reading devices that appear.  

And, for the most part, they can be downloaded to the computer’s hard drive and read at a more convenient time if necessary, even when there is no internet access.

However, whilst digital publishing presents myriad benefits for both magazine publishers and readers alike, the reasons that print media became so popular in the first place are just as relevant today as they were all those years ago when the printing presses started rolling. For some people the advantages offered by digital media are simply not great enough to convince them to give up their print editions.

One need only look at the barrage of comments that were left on the Design Week website following the surprising announcement that there will no longer be a print edition of the magazine. Many people expressed their shock at the news, especially those who had only just renewed their subscriptions, making it clear that the print edition will be sorely missed.

Whilst many of the readers of Design Week will be content with the changes, happily receiving their news in digital format and others will continue their subscription to the digital only service purely because there is no other option, there will undoubtedly be readers who decide to jump ship if they can no longer receive a print magazine.

News of Design Week’s disappearance off the news-stand caused quite a stir, but if readers will be able to receive the same high-quality content that the print edition was famed for, but in a digital format, what is all the fuss about? Surely the advantages of digital, as we explored earlier, will lead to a better experience for the readers? Or so you would think. 

But, here’s the thing. The reason why print is still so popular today is mostly because of the experience that it for provides the reader, and this experience couldn’t be more different from the online one offered by digital publications.

Finding the latest edition of your favourite print mag has arrived at your door or knowing that it is now available on the news-stand creates a great feeling of anticipation. What will be on the front cover and what will the main stories be? Then there is the way the magazine feels and smells. For some people this is an unparalleled feeling that conjures up a mix of emotions that a digital publication just can’t match.

Most people look forward to reading their print magazine as a form of escape. They can be alone with their magazine and immerse themselves in the content, away from the chaotic, fast-paced goings-on of the digital world. 

Print magazines are quite static in comparison to digital publications. The content is there waiting to be consumed in its entirety at your leisure. There is no frantic battle to concentrate on a story whilst all manner of moving adverts, live links and constant updates vie for your attention, distracting you at every mouse scroll. No, unlike the digital world, magazines wait for you. There is no pressure to keep up with every last happening as soon as it occurs. 

In addition, print magazines are easy to read. They are presented in a format that is perfectly designed for the way we consume them. There is no zooming, scrolling or accidently clicking on live links and being whizzed off to a site you didn’t really want to visit. There is also no eyestrain from spending hours on a PC or tablet, whose harmful backlight gradually degrades your eyesight. 

And with print magazines, you can be sure that the quality of the content and design is up to scratch. Those who work hard putting together print publications have a wealth of experience from years in the industry. They know what readers want and how to present it to them in the most appropriate format. Anyone with access to the technology to create a digital publication can now do so, regardless of their experience or lack thereof.

Granted, there aren’t many of us who could live without the internet these days. It has left an indelible mark upon our modern society. It has opened up avenues that we could never have imagined only a few years ago. Information is instantaneous, open to all and, above all, free.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice to take a break from that world. To switch off, slow down and relax with a nice printed magazine. One that feels nice and smells good. This is what people will miss most if the print industry follows Design Week into the abyss.

Stacey Sheppard. 11 July 2011

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The battle continues: Digital vs Print

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the online world. Time to switch off, slow down and relax with a printed magazine