Defeating the Digital Myth

“Print is still the cornerstone of the magazine business,” states Dr. Samir Husni, a.k.a. Mr. Magazine and the founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. He is professor and Hederman lecturer at the School of Journalism, not to mention a popular speaker, media consultant and researcher for the magazine media and publishing industry. Dr. Husni is also the president and CEO of Magazine Consulting & Research, a firm specializing in new magazine launches, repositioning of established magazines, and packaging publications for better sales and presentations.

“Even those publishers who are expanding and going in to digital work, it’s still based on print and, with few exceptions, no one is divorcing print to focus on digital,” he adds.

Magazines that banish the print edition generally sign their own death warrant, Dr. Husni notes, and none are thriving as online-only editions. He cited some B2B and niche IT publications that don’t rely on newsstand visibility. And, for those who drop the print edition, it’s a matter of not having a sustainable advertising revenue model.

Magazine publishers are still trying to find their way with a revenue model on the digital side. Too many of the heavy hitters—Time Inc., Condé Nast—are providing all access (digital and print) to subscribers. Dr. Husni points out that Amazon doesn’t send a print version of the book you purchase for the Kindle, and Apple doesn’t mail you a CD when you purchase songs off iTunes.

“(Digital) is a business that’s three or four years old as compared to (print) that’s been around for 200 years,” he says. “To me, the printed magazine is the best laptop ever invented. It doesn’t overheat. The copy is clear, you don’t need a screen and it’s cheap. If I get mad at the magazine, I throw it across the room. If I get mad at my iPad and throw it across the room, it’s going to cost me $700.”

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