Are digital magazines the future?

magazinesondemandIts not just the papers that are suffering these days, magazines are taking a bashing too. The latest ABC figures reported mostly doom and gloom for print titles with overall sales drops for all the big publishers. So magazines aren’t recession proof after all and escapism (at least in that form) isn’t how people are coping with the recession.

Amidst all this, magazines are following other media formats by going digital. was launched by the digital arm of John Menzies last July and sells titles from IPC, Bauer and NatMag among others. You can buy and download digital versions of  titles and store them on your hardrive, USB or whatever.

The move is a logical progression for the magazine industry, since we’re increasingly in the habit of buying and consuming media digitally, but what can they bring to party that “hard copies” can’t?

The real benefit seems to be interactivity.

They promise rich media content and links within the magazines take you to related to provide extra context or take you to related products. This model could change the way companies and products interact with consumers through magazines – something the PR and advertising industries could really benefit from.

Drew Benvie goes into more detail about how it’ll all affect the PR industry on last weeks PR Week Podcast.

So what did I think about it?

We’ll I signed up and got my free copy of ‘What Digital Camera’ from September last year (bit dissapointed I didn’t get a choice) and was quite impressed. Visually everything’s translated well into digital format and its easier to navigate than a hard copy.

In terms of interactivity, there were links to product sites from product reviews but that was about it. Since it’s a consumer title this makes sense, but for non product oriented mags they’ll have to work harder to add interactive value.

Readers don’t just want links to to product sites… and have they thought about integrating social media into the equation?

It’ll be interesting to see if the idea takes off. We are used getting digital content mostly for free on the net so I don’t know if people will buy into it straight off. I like having something tangible to browse personally, something handy and portable. I can’t read my laptop in the bath or on a crowded train – it just isn’t practical!

I don’t think moving print titles online will solve the immediate problems of the flagging magazine industry; let’s face it if people aren’t buying magazines in a recession they’re not going to download them either.

It looks good for the longterm though – there’s big savings to be made on publishing costs not to mention the positive environmental implications, and the more dynamic customer/product interaction model could boost ad revenues and make mags generally more appealing.


About Tom Craik

Senior Account Executive at Finn Communications, a PR and Word of Mouth agency based in Leeds. Baby face. Northern Monkey. Attention junkie. Space man. Fake tan. Dancefloor dreamer. Analyser. Deliberator. Wordsmith. Book worm. Head in clouds. Telecaster. Dance floor master. Closet rasta. Free love. Fresh jokes. Old gear. Naff beard. Existential. Influential. Left of centre. iPod. Math rock. Psych Folk. Dropping dubstep. Chicken Balti. Laos. Berlin. Bass bin. Circle pit. Guggenheim. Baltic. Cabernet. Globalised. Wired. No house. No car. Going places!
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7 Responses to Are digital magazines the future?

  1. laura610 says:

    I think, the idea behind digital magazines is worthy especially if the new formats really contain interactive content. Nevertheless, I’m not sure if such a format could catch me at all! For me, reading a magazine is mostly connected with leisure time – as we spent plenty of time in front of our lap tops at work today, I like varied activities in my free time. Reading a magazine on the screen seems to be not very relaxing to me. Nevertheless, the idea becomes interesting for me when thinking about personal research e.g. connected with your hobby. If you want to get a deeper insight into a specific topic it’s very comfortable to quickly klick through different online magazines to find the information you need (if you have to pay for the magazines than this becomes difficult, of course). But that’s just from the point of getting useful information – from the point of just reading for the sake of entertainment I’m sure I’ll stick to my usual print magazines. In the end, we’re all creatures of habit 😉

  2. Amanda says:

    I am not one to stand in the way of ‘technological advancement’ but I would be opposed to the idea of purchasing books and magazines on hard copy. I do realize that this is the only logical way for the industry to progress in an increasingly digital world, but personally- I prefer to read something tangible. Give me good ole’ paper any day! In my experience (especially where books are concerned), reading material off a screen does little to stimulate the senses other than causing a headache due to the glare. I see this move as a desperate attempt to capture a maket that really doesn’t exist anymore.

    This leads one to ask the (tragic) question- how many people actually read these days?

  3. postmodernpr says:

    I’m sure lots of people would echo both your preferences for tangible reading materials.

    I agree that its a bore reading a laptop screen all day and books and magazines shouldn’t be replaced. Digital magazines offer an alternative however – it’s all down to personal taste I suppose.

    If digital readers take off then things might change – mobile devices are too small and laptops too big and cumbersome.

    Maybe your taste’s will change too, who knows.

    I used to swear by my stacks of CDs untill I finally made the switch to digital music.

    And think of the environment!

  4. You make a valid point. The Economist is an example of an online magazine, you can buy access to their articles online and also download their articles and listen to them on your Ipod. I started thinking last time I bought a magazine was when I traveled. And as you say, we read more and more online. Is the printed media going to vanish?

  5. Rowan –

    I dont buy into this online magazine thing. I would much prefer, as you said, to have something portable which i can flick through wherever i am.
    The way things are going people in the future will just be staring at a computer screen all day doing everything they need to do at the click of a mouse.
    Maybe we should embrace this growing trend and try to invent laptop glasses which you put on and then you can stare at the internet from the moment you wake up to the second you go to sleep. Pllopp!

  6. Kine says:

    How sad wouldn’t it be with the laptop glasses, ha ha..

    I’m also in favour for hard copy magazines, I like to relax with a magazine before I fall asleep, and for me this is important, as Laura also said, since the most of my time is spent in front of my lap top..or the TV..There is nice to still have some alternatives.

    But on the other side, I read different Norwegian magazines online, since I don’t have access to them in other ways when I’m here in Leeds, so I’m not entirely negative to the digitalisation..I’m just hoping that there still will be many years before they replace all the hard copies of magazines and news papers. There is just something charming with a fresh magazine or news paper in your hands.

  7. Theresa says:

    A very great and interesting post, which is complementing my thoughts about “The dead of the newspaper” in my post last week. I absolutely agree with the comments before. As I read through your post I had the same thoughts like Laura, reading a magazine or newspaper means relaxing and enjoy reading. Unfortunately… my eyes hurt after a few hours sitting in front of my laptop. This is definitely not very relaxing. That’s the reason why I still buy magazines in a shop. I have never ordered an online magazine, but I think on the other hand online magazines could have some advantages, like Kine already mentioned the availability. For example in my hometown in Germany, I wouldn’t get any English magazines to read. Yes, it is a small town. As well as I can imagine, the time is a convincing factor. I am not sure how it works, but I think you can get the magazines much quicker than to go to a shop. Regarding this sentence “I can’t read my laptop in the bath or on a crowded train – it just isn’t practical!” I can strongly recommend an iPhone. 😉
    In general I would say I wouldn’t read online magazines, but maybe I would use them to research something for personal, university or job related reasons, but not for relaxing and fun.
    But there is still the possibility of the glasses… maybe this would change my opinion to being an online reader. 😉

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