Print: It’s not dead yet

There are times when a few pieces of paper so soundly trump digital; it’s not even debatable.

Not so sure about that? Watch this short video: Le papier.

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Okay, that video might have gone a bit overboard. But there is a weight and substance to paper and ink, that cannot be entirely dismissed. Yes, I mean that literally and figuratively.

If you had to guess (and for fun, let’s just say that you do), would you say that more print magazines were killed in 2012 than were killed in 2011? And, as long as you are guessing here, would you say that 2012 saw more launches of new print magazines or new digital magazines?

If you guessed that fewer print magazines folded in 2012 than in 2011, you were correct. In fact, it wasn’t even close. According to Mediafinder.com:

  • Only 74 print titles folded in 2012; 142 died in 2011

And as far as new launches, print is still king. The online database of U.S. and Canadian publications also found:

  • 195 print magazine titles were launched in 2012, compared to 181 the year before
  • 32 digital-only magazine launched in 2012, compared to 58 in 2011

These numbers show an upward trend in print from 2011 and a downward trend in digital. Most likely, the trends reflect the difficulty commercial publishers are having in making a profit online.

However, there were also 24 print titles, most notably Newsweek and Spin, that went to a digital-only publication (29 did this in 2011), reinforcing the belief that print is dying.

In last week’s Upstart Business Journal, Samir Husni, the director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi also know as “Mr. Magazine”, attempted to answer that.

He said the reason big players like Time Warner are ditching print is not due to unprofitability but rather bloated management hierarchies that care more about personal wealth than taking care of the product.

Mr. Magazine also noted that 2013 opened with the launch of 66 new print titles in January.

Meanwhile from the nonprofit side of the fence, many university alumni magazines are sticking with print as one of the primary and most successful tools for keeping alumni feeling connected to their alma maters and for bringing in support.

Direct mail is similarly robust. The return on investment for direct mail is between 11 and 13 dollars for every one dollar invested. By contrast, non direct mail’s ROI hovers around five bucks, according to the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Here’s my take away: when people get a quality magazine (or even a quality direct mail appeal?), it is more likely to be received as a welcome gift. Email, maybe not so much. Going online to read? Again, not the same draw as that nice paper product they sent you.

Bottom line, despite the popular belief that print is dead, this is not the whole story. Now, pass me some paper.

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