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

Be 3D: The e-world is flat. At their best, digital editions can sort of replicate belly bands, flaps, tabs, gatefolds, pop-ups, blow-in cards, embossing, and other pieces that make printed magazines a three-dimensional experience. But it’s not the same. Even the fanciest iPad app is a two-dimensional medium.

• See me: Foil stamping, metallic inks and fluorescent inks create colors and visual effects that cannot be replicated with a digital device.

• Sniff me: Until they make a Nook with Smell-O-Vision, you can’t put scented varnish or scratch-and-sniff inserts into an electronic magazine.

• Touch me: Varying how different parts of the magazine feel can communicate messages that words can’t convey. An ultrasmooth insert says luxury. Textured paper grabs attention. The rough edges of a business reply card subtly remind us there’s a call to action. A fabric swatch or special coating let us sample how a product feels. And stiff paper is especially suited to for Viagra ads.

• Peel me: Printed magazines can engage the readers’ hands in so many ways beyond just flipping pages—cut out this recipe, peel this strip, tear along the perforation, pull out this card, open this product sample, gently remove this centerfold and hide it from the wife and kids.

• Fruit vandalism: A recent issue of Lucky Peach took the “peel me” tactic to a new level with a page of mock fruit stickers—for example, “Suspiciously Foreign Tomato,” “Hand Harvested By Poor People,” “Eat Me,” and, for you J. Alfred Prufrock fans, “Dare to Eat a Peach” with a picture of T.S. Eliot. When shoppers started placing the little messages in produce departments and trying to use the “$6 Off Entire Purchase” stickers, Lucky Peach got kicked out of Publix supermarkets, and generated more than enough free publicity and online copy sales to make up for the lost newsstand sales. Try that with an app.

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!