Digital Magazines are at the leading edge of the Web 2.0 revolution. They meld traditional reader values with unparalleled interaction, timeliness, longevity, value and an environmental conscience. Unfortunately, many stalwarts of the media and advertising industries have yet to fully grasp the distinction and consequent impact of digital magazines.
Some confusion is understandable, as the available technologies for digital magazine publishing are in an early growth phase. Choices for publishers are expanding, as opposed to converging. This has direct impact in a number of important areas. Advertising, for example, can be handled like a display ad in a print magazine, or it can be handled like an online banner, in both presentation and pricing.
The extent to which the print magazine model is transferred into the digital world is another area where choices exist and are being widely explored. Some presentations use a “page flipping” graphic model to simulate the handling of a physical magazine. Others argue that this is unnecessary visual hyperbole and simply use a landscape visual format to present their product.
BEYOND WEB PAGES
One area that is very consistently adopted is the use of traditional print layouts, often rich in graphics, photography and font selection. This approach immediately distinguishes the digital magazine from a simple web page. In taking the best from both the print and online worlds, digital magazines present a unique value proposition that is only slowly being recognized by marketers and advertisers.
There are a significant number of differences between print and digital magazines, many of which substantially enhance the value of the latter. Let’s take a look at what these are.
– Persistence – Digital magazines remain available as long as the publisher allows. Similarly, an advertiser’s message remains available longer than it would in print. Digital magazines keep on giving. Most publishers keep back issues immediately available online, so the audience for a given issue continues to grow over time.- Eco-friendly – Digital magazines consume no paper, ink or chemicals. They fill no landfills. Today, only about 20 percent of magazines are recycled from the home, according to the Magazine Publishers Association. Even a small magazine, say having 68 pages and a restricted circulation of 20K, consumes 12 tons of paper with each issue. Transportation of the finished product adds further to the environmental burden.- Interactive – Digital magazines can provide links to your web site for instant access or ordering. In addition, your visual message can be enhanced with animation or video for heightened impact. The days of waiting for Reader Service card results to come in are done for. – Contemporary – Digital magazines are no less a publication than an email is less than a letter. They appeal to a large, younger demographic that are Web 2.0 tech-savvy, early adopters looking for information and generally unafraid to take a risk. They are not “worth” less than print publications. To a smartphone user, messaging while on the go is not worth less than writing a letter or memo, is it? Instant access to information via a GPS device is hardly worth less than reading a map.
– Search Engine Friendly – Digital magazines can be indexed by leading search engines, providing yet another way to draw readers to your message. Readers looking for specific information can arrive at a digital magazine page just as easily as they may at a web site.- Economical – Compared to print magazines, advertising dollars are not paying to fund three to four copies for every one sold on a news stand, in addition to their transportation and eventual disposal. – Professional – Most digital magazines today are equal to their print competitors in presentation, editorial quality and photography. Indeed, readers seem to love them; 88 percent of the 11,642 respondents to a study by Texterity and BPA said they were very satisfied or satisfied with their digital magazine experience.- Adaptive – Digital magazines can accommodate the latest in consumer electronics preferences (e.g.- iPhone editions). They can also be “shelved.” Most publishers offer the option for the viewer to read the publication online, or to download it for off-line reading. They can be archived and retrieved for future reference.- Timeliness – Digital magazines can deliver information sooner than print publications. Long lead times are a thing of the past. People search out online publications, news portals and web sites precisely because they bring current news to light faster than most print publications.- Dynamic – Digital magazine technology continues to develop and will bring additional enhancements in the near future.As a result of these factors, digital magazines are – or can be – less expensive, have broader reach and deliver improved ROI. Digital magazines are not subject to arcane restrictions such as folio counts and fulfillment costs, climbing paper and ink costs and other physical challenges. They are not subject to import or export restrictions and are immediately available to a far wider audience. They give more, faster and cost less. What’s not computing here?
We are seeing an increasing number of print publishers delivering digital editions. In part, this can be easy to do because final pre-press output, as high resolution PDF files, can also be fed directly into conversion software to build an electronic version.
Increasingly, we are also seeing examples where existing print magazines are being retracted and replaced by digital-only versions. This is a consequence of the current economic challenges, which are also spawning new startups in the digital-only publishing world.
The Pulitzer Prizes, the most prestigious of U.S. journalism awards, announced recently they were expanding to include online-only publications, in recognition of the full-fledged evolution of digital news media. This is no longer a niche within the publishing world, but a developing new media of its own.
However, new publishers in the digital-only world will have to recognize that, for the moment, digital magazines are not a direct replacement for print media. The primary reason for this is that readers tend not to use them in the same way. For example, there may be a tendency to allow feature articles to grow in size simply because the incremental page cost is minimal. It may be thought that this would increase the value of the publication to the reader and in the case of highly specialized information, it likely does.
For more general topics, however, it must be recognized that people exhibit shorter attention spans when interacting online and that likely carries over into the digital magazine realm. Until the available hardware more closely simulates the physical experience of a print magazine, reading of digital magazines is likely to remain an “on the go” experience – whether filling in time while commuting on the train, waiting for a connecting flight or kicking back for a few minutes during a hectic day.
Finally, some argue that the physical experience of paging through a great magazine, filled with luscious photography and insightful copy, printed on superb quality paper and using the finest production methods, will never be replaced by some kind of “electronic paper,” and they are entirely correct. Such “coffee table” magazines are wondrous experiences when you run across them. Bring on the wood paneled library, filled with the luscious scents of Kona or Blue Mountain coffee, Napoleon brandy and fine cigars. There are some print publications that deserve to be handled this way but, let’s be honest, most don’t.
When you need to get the attention of modern readers, digital magazines must become a keystone in your promotional strategy.