A Place for Print in the Digital Age

March 21, 2013 / by / 0 Comment

It wasn’t necessarily a long time ago when the future of printed publications was questionable. Many heard prophetic, brazen declarations of the end: The printpocalypse. Yet over time it became apparent that extinction was nowhere in the near future.

Instead, publications found a way to rejuvenate material delivery and face the transition gracefully. Yes, the Web is a receptacle for all kinds of information, but publications continue to use quality, engaging, verb-centric written words to avoid the trash heap. As a result, the information age has wedged its way firmly between magazine pages, much like the annoying cards that fall out of them.

The Evolution of Mobile

The rapid advancement of both mobile technology and product development served as major catalysts for the continued success of established publishers. For example, the introduction of e-readers seemingly created an entirely different medium. The result was an unforeseen boost in momentum for newspapers and magazines, creating new opportunities. Companies were able to engineer applications to increase reach, while maintaining stylistic integrity and immediately communicating new material to users on the go.

Material Integration

Rather than creating duplicate material that spans across print and the web, publications have taken a more interactive approach. Online material is often an extension of print based material. In magazines, the two vehicles often coincide offering additional information, resources, contests, and more. Even QR codes have found a place among pages, creating links to advertising, informational sources, and various forms of contest participation for readers. The delivery formats work alongside print material, encouraging reader involvement.

The consumer benefits of online newspaper subscriptions generally revolve around accessibility. In most cases users have unlimited access to articles published at any given time.

Ultimately these methods save print space, cost, and help with overall audience retention. Most importantly, readers are able to fluidly navigate between print and web, resulting in a positive and cohesive product experience.

Digital Subscription Choices

Pricing can be a condemning factor in the digital realm. Furthermore, many still reject the overall thought of online subscription, holding on to the belief that information should be free. However, many publications have established a paid audience. While different publications have various benefits for subscribers, they are also successful for a number of different strategic choices.

The Economist has over 100,000 digital-only subscribers worldwide. The online success is likely a result of their commitment to making the magazine available on as many platforms as possible. Their digital reach includes iOS, Android, Blackberry X, and Kindle Fire. They’ve also announced plans to be on Windows 8 phone, Chrome Store and other platforms, as web-based subscriptions continuously experience growth.

The Wall Street Journal has taken an interesting approach to pricing digital subscriptions. They currently offer two choices: $21.99 for digital only, or $25.99 for a digital and print bundle. This type of packaging offers a way for both digital and print customers to find value and possibly utilize the service in a new format.

A Blend of Revenue Models

Traditionally, various types of media are supported in different ways. Some forms function solely on advertising revenue, while others are largely supported on a paid basis. Print publications represent a blend of these two models, and this same type of structure has transferred to their digital form as well. However, as more successful applications of paid content become apparent, publications will continue to explore the digital landscape.

Several entertainment industries continue to innovate and experiment with paid services alongside the development of print in the digital format. Obviously people are comfortable purchasing music and video through services like iTunes, resulting in more paid music and video. Additionally, services like Hulu and Netflix have created an audience by offering an extension of recognizable entertainment.

Likewise, publications have been successful by establishing digital formats as extensions of their product. For example, digital versions create the opportunity for multimedia integrations. The result is a multi-sensory experience, previously unavailable in traditional print formats.

Now more than ever, it has become apparent that people are willing to pay for certain types of content they value when price and convenience align. For publications, the significant challenge lies in the ability to provide and communicate that value, while implementing reasonable price points. Thus far, the transitional phase (or expansion) for publications has essentially functioned as a trial and error process. As time progresses, consumers continue to change the ways in which they seek information, and digital publications will have more opportunities to shape their efforts to fit their respective audience. Overall, the entertainment value of respected publications has the ability to span across various types of media. However, there is no possibility for a standard model. The challenges are as individual as the audiences.


Chris is a graduate of Ball State University, where he studied Journalism and Advertising. As a staff writer he brings his love for snazzy word combinations to Techie, meanwhile suppressing the continuous urge to generate puns. In his free time, Chris is likely reading, accepting food challenges, performing Spartan exercise maneuvers, or crafting new music on guitar and the occasional dub step on GarageBand.

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