Print Is Dead, Long Live Print: Digital Magazines Have Publishers in a Spin

digital magazines

Time Inc, Hearst, Condé Nast, Wenner Media and Meredith magazine publishers have banded together to promote their print editions in a "power of print" ad campaign. But let's do the Time Warp again, and remember digital mags really are the future.

The "power of print" campaign is due to be announced today, and it cost some $90 million and constitutes 1,400 ad pages. What may be the major placement is a two-pager featuring Michael Phelps, with the tag line, "We surf the Internet, we swim in magazines." The body text of this one makes lots of the emotional differences between the two different media—the Net is "exhilarating" but the printed word in a magazine is "enveloping" and while the Net "grabs you," a magazine "embraces you."

This is a pretty odd line to push, if you think about it because every printed word is dead, fixed, whereas the dynamic changing text published online is very much alive. And with Web2.0 user interactivity and social networking threaded through more and more Web sites, surely it's Web publications that truly embrace the user. So, given this mixed message, what's the big campaign actually all about? Statistics. The ads will make note of the fact that magazine readership has risen 11% during the time that Google's been around (12 years,) and in the same way TV didn't kill the movies, the Net hasn't killed the magazine. The group is pushing this message to remind the general public that the magazine isn't dead yet.

But that's also wrong, isn't it? Sure, the Net hasn't killed the magazine, but that's not really the looming, menacing, transformational threat that the industry really faces: E-publishing, and digital versions for the next paradigm of mobile computing heralded by Apple's iPad. The dynamic, complex content that can be delivered in a tablet PC magazine edition is already resulting in in-fighting inside publishers as to who assumes control over the iPad editions—the print staff, or the already digital-savvy Net edition staff. This also ties in to a more subtle question, which has apparently had Conde Nast in a spin: Do magazines go for mere straightforward digital recreations for the iPad and other tablet PCs, or do they embrace the kind of clever technology used on Web sites?

With the dead-tree publishing industry in a bit of a mess right across the board, and a huge, difficult digital upheaval threatening to arrive any moment, you may well argue that spending a whopping $90 million on a printed-mag advert campaign is a little silly. Even more amusingly, and ironically, it may be exactly the sort of dynamic, adaptive highly-targeted adverts that work online that'll help the digital magazine industry through this crisis, rather than static print ads.

[Via MinOnline, PaidContent]

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