Going Digital: Are Magazines on Their Way Out?

using a laptop

Do you remember the last time you bought a magazine? Probably not.

With almost 4.66 billion people in the online stratosphere, it’s no secret that creating the internet was the dawn of a new era. These days, people can connect with the swipe of a finger. If you need to look up any information, the internet is there at your disposal. But what about the industry we’ve left behind: the print industry?

COVID-19’s Effects on Publishing

With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still being felt, one might think that the print industry, reliant on several factors like printers, distributors, shops, and advertising, is completely going down the drain. And that’s partially true. In the UK, City A.M., the London-based newspaper publisher, stopped printing amid the pandemic. Other companies like JPI Media have even followed suit, ceasing printing on 12 of their titles and laying off 350 of its employees.

Entertainment Is Out; News Is In

Print magazines were already on a steady decline to becoming obsolete, and as early as 2017, fashion and lifestyle publications had already taken a sharp hit in their sales. With social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter becoming the new source of entertainment, fashion, and lifestyle news, there’s hardly any reason to purchase those glossy-covered magazines. This is especially true with celebrity news and tabloid content. All it takes is a simple Twitter search to get up to speed with the latest gossip and celebrity news. Unfortunately for these publishers, these magazines don’t have the same effect on readers as they used to.

On the other hand, the volatile political climates all around the world have made it easier for news magazines in recent years. With the amount of information you can find online, it’s hard to see what’s real and what isn’t. This is where print publications show their strengths: readers looking for reliable and quality sources and reporting might still turn to print materials to get a more informed view on global happenings.

Not only this, but leaders in the tech industry are slowly becoming the rulers of the press too. It may or may not be a known fact that Jeff Bezos, who has recently been in the news with reports of him stepping down as the CEO of e-commerce giant Amazon, actually owns the Washington Post. In 2018, Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce, and his wife Lynne acquired Time magazine. These are just two of the numerous tech giants who have power over the press.

Some Magazines Are Going Online

browsing photos online

As publishers find ways to cut costs, going digital seems like the only viable option. Compared to print, online publishing is cheaper as long as you have the right equipment. And these days, with 87% of people in the United States having access to a computer, along with the existence of public WiFi and data, you probably do. You won’t have to worry about printing or distribution costs. Many publishers have gone digital and focused their strategies on advertising on social media sites.

But having a website isn’t enough. Many publishers have innovated their sites to pump out different content from news articles to photos to videos to keep their site relevant and interesting. These sites are almost required to diversify their content at the risk of going out of style the same way they did in the print world.

The lockdowns have even helped increase consumer interest in online magazine subscriptions. For instance, companies like Condé Nast have seen an increase in subscriptions in March and April of 2020, double the amount of subscriptions compared to the previous year.

Niche Magazines are Thriving

The thing about the internet is that you’re bound to find 5 to 10 different articles about the same topic. Magazines that cater to certain niches offer something different. Prioritising quality work that caters to the specific rather than the general are the strengths of these magazines. The advantage they have over more commercialised content is that they don’t need to look for an audience; the audience finds them, as they’re already interested in the topics the magazine covers. Take The Happy Reader, for instance. It flaunts beautiful typography work along with content that’s about staying inspired. For people looking for a source of inspiration, especially in these uncertain times, this might be a magazine they’d consider.

The print and publishing industry has had it hard enough pre-pandemic, but it’s up to these companies to find and innovate ways to become more relevant to the public and keep with the times. For now, it’s a good idea to watch out for where print magazines will be headed in the future. Will they become truly obsolete? Or will “stay at home” rules draw readers back to flipping pages? We’ll have to find out.

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