The View From the Tree: 34 Tricks Printed Magazines Can Do That Apps Can’t

It seems like only yesterday when we first heard about iPads and thought they were feminine hygiene devices. Now we in the publishing industry are talking so much about iPads, Nooks, Kindles, and their e-brethren (or is it e-sistren?) that we’ve lost sight of what ink on paper can do.
Doctors’ waiting rooms that used to be bursting with a wide variety of “public place” magazines now sport only a handful of health-related titles. (Diabetes and You? Ooh, hand me that. I need to catch up on my sleep while I wait for the doctor.)

It used to be a big deal when you sold a fancy gatefold package to an advertiser. Now you’ll get pushback from some premedia specialist complaining that the piece can’t be re-created in this or that electronic format. We have quickly forgotten or overlooked some of the tricks printed magazines can do that have not yet been matched by electronic magazines (or by websites, for that matter).

Sure, electronic editions have their advantages. I’ve never heard of a Nook edition getting caught in the U.S. Postal Service’s FSS (Flats Shredding System) or having out-of-register ads. You can embed sound or video, track click-throughs, count how many people saw an article or ad, and do all kinds of other tricks that would make Gutenberg’s head spin.

So, which are better, printed magazines or electronic editions? The answer is the same as Ron Paul’s reply to the infamous boxers-or-briefs question: “Depends.”

It’s like asking whether newsstand copies are better than subscriber copies. Better for what? And why would you choose? Magazine publishers are now living in a both/and world rather than an either/or world (and sometimes it seems like a both-this-and-that-plus-this-and-don’t-forget-about-this-and-is-there-an-app-for-that?-world.)

Anyway, here are 34 things (bolded) you can do with printed magazines that you can’t do, or do very well, with electronic magazines:

D. Eadward Tree is a pseudonymous magazine-industry insider who provides insights on publishing, postal issues, and print media on his blog, Dead Tree Edition.

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  • werq55

    I just don’t think using a little screen to read a "magazine" compares to the experience, and even involvement, of holding a real magazine or newspaper and being engaged with its contents. Call me old fashioned…

  • Hugh Gordon

    A printed magazine can hold up to a storm, won’t be hacked, tracked or run down a battery; can be dropped and passed around like a toy and doesn’t need to be upgraded to version X to work. It also does cost you hundreds to begin reading.

  • Alix Paultre

    One thing we did at ECN magazine was put QR codes in for our podcasts, so readers could listen to the audio while paging through the print.

  • Jennifer O’Kane

    As a magazine and newspaper publisher myself I can confirm that the market for ad revenue has been compromised with the addition of too many other usages as mediums. However, sales of publications has remained pretty much the same, proving that the general public still love to hold a newspaper or magazine when applicable. What else can you take to the loo? Sitting on the bog with a kindle just seems very inappropriate!