Digital readership has grown in recent years. In fact, PBS reports that small town newspapers are “printing fewer pages, less frequently — and sometimes collapsing entirely.” But perhaps the correlation of these two data points is the fake news we’re constantly warned about. What’s New in Publishing reports 58% of the subscribing public say they are “primarily print-oriented” and up to 80% of publisher revenues come from print publications.
According to MNI, Baby Boomers read 9.2 magazines per month, Gen Xers read 9.1, and Millennials read 8.9. Reuters says, “While we live in a digital-first world, there is still a strong sense that print is valuable, especially among Gen Z.” MNI Targeted Media Inc. commissioned a study into students at major universities and found that 83% use newspapers for trusted content and 34% read magazines. Folio confirms that, while Gen Z is still phone-obsessed, this generation also spends an hour reading magazines every week. Could this younger population revitalize the print industry?
Benefits and drawbacks to print and digital
The first step toward optimizing magazine distribution is to understand the pros and cons of both print and digital.
Print brings massive reader loyalty. For example, while The New York Times reports an explosion of online subscribers, their print subscription base is holding steady. Most print subscribers have been paying for their subscription for five years or more. This signals an opportunity for publishers to capitalize on the demand for both vehicles, since print subscribers often engage with digital content, too. Publishers can capitalize on these trends by deepening customer engagement with a higher frequency of shared content to create a consistent source of revenue.
The downfalls of print include slower publication timeframes that make it difficult to disseminate time-sensitive information. The industry has also experienced supply chain issues, disrupting distribution during the COVID-19 crisis.
Conversely, digital publishing seeks to harness a younger audience, which can boost publication longevity. Publishing happens at digital speeds in the cloud, with none of the distribution hassles of mail delivery. Interestingly, COVID-19 increased digital readership by 76% this year. However, like all digital venues, cybersecurity is a huge challenge.
Future magazine publishing must include a mix of print and digital
The takeaway from the print/digital war is that it isn’t a war at all. These mediums can exist in harmony and can be harnessed to capitalize on the best of both. Norwegian publisher Amedia successfully added a digital component to their 62 local and regional outlets for a $14 million profit (U.S.) last year. Their executive vice president says, “Print is vital to us. I would argue, and I think a lot of our readers would agree, that our printed newspapers are better for the digital transformation that we had.”
The pandemic this year has forced many publishers to rethink their distribution strategy. The immediacy of our response matters, making digital important. Major publishing houses are now multi-platform omnichannel powerhouses that capitalize on the benefits of both print and digital distribution. Sheridan works with these organizations to support magazine publishing in both print and digital, allowing these publications to thrive despite the changes to our industry.
Contact your Sheridan representative or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.