Commentary

Remember Paper Magazines?

I was thinking about a study I was asked to participate in recently. First of all, it is rare that I can actually participate at all. I'm sure like you, we are considered to be biased by the careers we keep. We also spend lots of money to get a peek in the tent of consumer insight in regard to the brand we represent.

Being the geek that I am, I was excited that this study wanted media buyers. And for once, Interactive Media buyers took priority. While I can't tell you who the study was for, I can tell you what it was about. The bulk of the questions asked which publications I read. Immediately, I thought of content in the digital world as opposed to printed matter. Unfortunately, the publication they were asking me about was something I used to read.

The agencies in my past lives used to pay for many subscriptions. In fact, you could always find this on the desks of many each week. Then for a period of time, the must-read pubs became scarce. I guess I never really thought about it when it was all happening.

Nowadays, you will most likely be able to find a current copy in the lobby. However, most managers don't approve of the costly subscription price. To me it doesn't matter all that much. I sign up for alerts online and read it in more of a sound-byte style. Besides, when I did get it, the news was old by the time I read it a few days older.

Sometimes I take the immediacy of the Web for granted. It has been a way of life for me for so long. If I am looking for information, I have gratification within moments. It is rare that I flip through hard copy pages.

When the survey got deeper based on my responses, I thought about it even more. Although I eat, sleep, and breathe the Web, I still like some hard copy. However, I don't like the costly subscriptions. I have one exception. I must admit I do pay a heck of a lot for the Harvard Business Review. Fair enough, call me a geek.

We all know there are so many sales and business development folks who are trying to capture the eyeballs of those of us who are digital media planners/buyers. They often ask me what I bookmark or subscribe to (versus what I read). While I can't plug all my faves here, I'd be happy to share them offline. You can share them with me and the other readers on the SPIN board too.

Nonetheless, people love digital magazines. A recent survey conducted by 101communications has revealed some tell-tale data about subscribers to digital magazines, i.e., the online versions of their print counterparts. Topline findings include:


35% of digital subscribers increased their use of the parent Web site
31% increased their use of the magazine
22% increased their use the publication's e-mail newsletters
55% subscribed to the digital version, as it was easier to save
54% subscribed for convenience
51% of subscribers subscribed for search features
92% of subscribers stated they had taken some action as a result of reading an ad in the digital publication
90% are likely to renew their subscription
78% are satisfied or very satisfied with their subscription

Surprisingly, "Advertisers are neutral about [digital editions]," said Jeffrey Klein, president-CEO of 101communications, a technology media company. "They're not overly excited about the opportunity, but they're not as skeptical of the readership [of digital editions] as one might fear."

The survey found the typical print subscriber had read or looked into 3.19 of the last four issues. At the same time, the typical digital subscriber had read or looked into 2.73 of the last four issues. Three out of four print subscribers said they preferred the print format because it's easier to read while traveling.

Digital subscribers said they preferred the electronic replicas because they are easier to save (55%), convenient (54%), and have search capability (51%). "They need to understand that the digital format is chosen and requested by the reader, and that BPA audits digital circulation to the same high standard as print," said BPA Worldwide President-CEO Glenn Hansen. "And publishers need to help advertisers exploit the unique creative opportunities offered by digital formats." So what do you "read?" Do you still pick up print publications? If so, do you prefer them? Share your bookmarks and your reading list with me on the SPIN board.

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