Readers of Print Are Still Here

The version of this column that appears in print reaches an audience that obviously likes a paper-and-ink experience. Why would they, when they can read it online, just like you’re doing right now? There are some significant reasons why not all traditional media have gone away.


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“Print is dead.” That was the pronouncement of many analysts who watched the rise of digital, online media in the early 2000s. They predicted that readers would abandon books, newspapers and magazines in favor of electronic devices capable of delivering content in a digital format through a variety of media channels. So how has traditional print media been able to survive? Why are print magazines, specifically ones like this, still around? The reasons are instructive. 

Readers stick to a print magazine if they value the reading experience and find that experience valuable. Words and pictures on paper pages provide a different experience than looking at a screen, even when the words and pictures are the same. The “feel” of print lends itself to taking in new concepts that require purposeful contemplation, evaluation and even savoring. It provides a context that is perceived as focused, refined and credible. Print is especially effective for learning through storytelling (one reason why “application stories” about successful shops using effective technology are a staple of MMS). High-quality print content can help on the job and lead to operational improvements, thus making the reading experience valuable in a very real sense.

Of course, not all magazine content is editorial. Advertising content also benefits from the format of a print magazine. When a reader’s mind is in the comfortable space created by a magazine, it is also likely to be receptive to a clear and relevant message from advertisers. Discovering new products and suppliers in advertisements adds to the value of the magazine reader’s experience. This discovery occurs in a zone that is private, neutral and open-ended. This access to potential buyers is critical to the value proposition for advertisers as well, and needless to say, advertising revenue is what keeps a magazine afloat.    

Similarly, both readers and advertisers benefit from a magazine with a strong presence in electronic media. The online component of a magazine’s brand, for example, serves an audience when its preference turns to receiving technical content via networked, electronic devices. This presence is indispensable for on-demand fact gathering, product research, building and interacting with the audience community—activities that call for immediacy and convenience. 

In fact, digital technology and the online network it has enabled have created tools and resources that greatly enhance the production of ink and paper publications. Writers, editors and art directors can be more versatile, creative and productive. The editing, layout and printing processes are integrated and streamlined. The end result is a more compelling, more appealing print product that is highly likely to create the experience that readers want and need. 

Print has staying power—but it will stay only as long as its readers stay. Readers and their magazine are in it together.