By DANIELA DONCEL
December 11, 2018
The online universe is gaining popularity fast and all industries are jumping on the train before it is too late, including the magazine industry. The print publication, however, will not be left behind.
With the industry in a state of flux, the conversations about what’s great and not so great about both platforms are now mimicking that fluidity. Take a listen.
Battle of the Bright Screen
The digital platform has several advantages for an organization that runs a magazine, advantages Omar Taweh is very well aware of when he is working on the publication of the Nutmeg Magazine.
Taweh is the magazine managing editor for Nutmeg Publishing, an organization at the University of Connecticut that most notably creates the yearbook for the university’s graduating class. Along with it, the organization publishes a digital magazine once a semester.
Nutmeg Publishing relies on the waivable fees of UConn undergraduate students, and with the main focus being the yearbook, the production of a magazine can get the shorter end of the stick with the budget.
Taweh said the online platform helps an organization that wants to produce content when there is a low budget.
According to Taweh, this is a big part of why the digital platform will continue to be the standard for the Nutmeg Magazine in the future.
The digital platform also allows for other organizations that have a low budget, such as schools.
UConn English Professor and children’s author Pegi Deitz Shea said the cuts being made to school library budgets can lead to opting for the digital platform.
“Subscribing to digital magazines would make more sense for them so they can share them among the classrooms rather than just have one copy that can’t leave the library,” Shea said.
This easy accessibility is another benefit magazines gain when going online. Taweh said a digital magazine allows for fast and efficient sharing between friends on all kinds of social media through a single link.
▶️ “If I have it online, I can send a link to my friend,” Taweh said.
Quick sharing means immediate connection and interaction between a magazine production team and their audience, something that can’t be replicated with a print magazine.
Forbes, an American business magazine, reported in October of this year that Oprah’s Magazine was going digital. According to Kate Lewis, chief content officer for Hearst Magazines, the 18-year-old print magazine went online because they felt they were missing an opportunity by not connecting daily.
In personal news: I am thrilled to share that I just began my next chapter as the Digital Director of the brand new Oprah Magazine website, https://t.co/YWCMFDCBsW, which will launch this fall!! Beyond grateful — and excited!! 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽 https://t.co/4PtLKEurJs pic.twitter.com/nnyTBjoqdd
— Arianna Davis (@ariannagdavis) June 18, 2018
Forbes is the creative writing director for UConn’s English department. Though he teaches many different creative writing courses, one of them is the student-run literary magazine course, the Long River Review (LRR), where he supervises the undergraduate magazine masthead.
LRR is a UConn-based literary and art magazine but when it began to create its online presence, Forbes said it became a nationally and internationally-recognized magazine.
At one point, he said, an art submission was sent from Ukraine which he found to be very telling of how far they’ve expanded thanks to the online platform.
With the world moving online, there is now a concern for the fate of magazines that are printed.
“I would be very upset to see [the Nutmeg Magazine] going in the garbage or being wasted,” Taweh said.
This is a reality Forbes is all too familiar with.
“I know that we used to print 500 copies every spring semester of the LRR. I have decided let’s see what we can do if we only print 400 copies. It seems like what is happening is that we might sell anywhere between 100, 150 copies and then we have all of these copies left in my office,” Forbes said.
“Also, it saves the environment so I don’t really know why you wouldn’t opt toward that if possible,” Taweh said.
Along with being an environmentally-conscious option, the platform allows for more multimedia elements such as embedded videos and links.
Though it may seem like the digital platform would be preferred considering society’s attachment to the screen and its benefits, it seems the glossy page has been putting up a fight.
Resistance of the Glossy Page
In 2017, BBC News reported that the sales of certain magazines titles are going up. BBC reporter Steven McIntosh wrote, “News and current affairs magazines are becoming more popular — but celebrity, gossip and fashion publications are still struggling.”
UConn journalism professor Scott Wallace agrees. Wallace has freelanced for the National Geographic, contributing five stories to their magazine. His latest story featured an indigenous tribe in the Eastern Amazon of Brazil.
Protected forests in Brazil and Peru hold some of the world’s last remote indigenous groups, and are increasingly threatened by resource-hungry outsiders— writes our own @wallacescott in an extraordinary cover story for the October issue of @NatGeo https://t.co/FrfzRTpy1t pic.twitter.com/egdt8p1EUK
— UConn Journalism (@UConnJournalism) September 18, 2018
Though Wallace said he is not sure why that is the trend going on with news, he said he believes there is a shift in the world of journalism.
▶️ “I think there’s a demand, especially now, for good solid journalism,” Wallace said.
The Economist deputy editor Tom Standage said, “The more noise there is on social media, all those TV channels and so on, the more demand there is for a finite, finishable package that helps you understand what’s going on. A noisier and more uncertain news environment works in our favour.”
As for those celebrity gossip magazines, there are starting to see their light dim and according to Penny, it’s all thanks to social media.
There, Penny said, celebrity content is covered for free and with ease. People can now follow celebrity social media pages, getting the news immediately from the source itself. As a result, these magazines must post online to stay relevant.
Media columnist Ian Burrell said once that kind of news is out there, it’s quickly shared and then people move on. They don’t want to wait a week to read about it in print, according to Burrell.
“Many readers are hungry for a deeper understanding of the fast-moving changes in global news and politics rather than seeking to escape from it by burying their heads in celebrity gossip and entertainment stories,” Burrell said.
For different types of magazines, such as children’s magazines, the online platform and their platform just hasn’t clicked yet.
According to Jasper Jackson of New Statesman America, children’s magazines continue to appeal because “comparable online alternatives haven’t emerged.”
Shea also said children’s literature did not see popularity with digital devices like ebooks did.
The appeal of the print version not only lies in its contents but in the health of children. Shea said there is a need right now to encourage children to stay away from screens.
▶️“I still think there’s that sense of the adult-child dynamic,” Shea said.
Human connection can be experienced online in a comment section, but according to Taweh, it’s a lot more interesting when there’s a physical copy of the material.
“I like to buy books so that I can scribble random things that pop in my head on the sides and it’s not going to inhibit my ability to give that book to somebody else afterwards.▶️ That’s actually going to be more interesting,” Taweh said.
According to Forbes, there is something fundamentally different with having a page than a screen.
For a writer or a poet, Forbes said their work being in a print is a validation point for their career.
A reputation for a writer lies in holding a tangible version of their work, Forbes said.
Endgame of the Magazine
“The only reason why we didn’t do digital 200 years ago or for all of history is because we didn’t have digital 200 years ago,” Taweh said.
The magazine industry is in flux. How the magazine industry will look in the future is unclear. However, it’s very possible a balance is being struck between the two mediums.
According to Taweh, digital and print compliment each other in a very interesting way and in no way overshadow each other.
Forbes said it’s better to give people options with both content online and on paper.
However, as we’ve seen with all kinds of different trends, the magazine industry could very well change in the future.
How print magazines are staying relevant in a digital age
“No one has balked at the idea of it being digital rather than print, which is amazing — we don’t have to explain to people the value of digital anymore, they already get it.”
Here are the top print magazines that transformed into exclusively digital magazines, according to Magplus.
The entertainment and wellness magazine announced dropping the print platform in November 2017, Magplus reports.
According to BBC entertainment reporter Steven McIntosh, Teen Vogue’s print copies have not been as successful compared to their online presence, so as a result, they’ve gone digital.
“Clicks don’t lie,” McIntosh wrote, “And Teen Vogue gets a lot of them.”
After 47 years, the technology news magazine left its print editions behind in favor for the online platform, according to Magplus.
When reporting the news of Computerworld’s move to digital, Engadget Managing Editor Terrence O’Brien said this story was becoming all too familiar.
O’Brien wrote, “Countless magazines and newspapers have closed up shop as print has suffered what can only be described as a long and slow death spiral.”
Self magazine, a title focused on women’s fitness and wellness, went full-on digital in December 2016, according to Women’s Wear Daily media reporter Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke.
The loss of the print edition also resulted in the loss of 20 jobs, according to Bloomgarden-Smoke. Self Editor in Chief Carolyn Kylstra said, “When the magazine folded, it was really scary and upsetting because we had to say goodbye to colleagues who we really loved.”
Kylstra said she is proud the team at Self were able to show the industry their brand would not die with those losses. She said the change can actually be necessary for the growth of the brand.
The magazine for IT business leaders officially announced going fully digital in 2013, according to Magplus.
Information Week Editor-at-Large Charles Babcock touched on the topic of going digital when a PwC report said “some organizations become top performers in going digital; others, not so much.”
According to Babcock’s article on the PwC report, the organizations that are falling behind are struggling to keep up with accelerating standards.
“Welcome to the age of digital transformation,” Babcock wrote.
The digital age now offers a whole new level of engagement: multimedia. As seen below with Empire Magazine, readers have more options for interaction.
A print magazine can only offer the flip of a page. Now, readers can see multiple pictures on one page with the press of a button, swipe to read more and click to view exclusive video interviews with actors.
The online platform allows for immediate engagement with a reader, an advantage the print platform does not have.
Some digital magazines add animation to their publications to mimic the movement of flipping a page.
Though one can see the page flip, for some, this is nothing compared to the actual feeling of flipping a glossy page.
Even with the internet, people still reach for the print edition of a magazine
Freeport Press held a 10-question survey this year. Open for three days in September, the survey generated 1226 responses, with 1141 of those responses solicited through Survey Monkey and the rest from a newsletter. According to the results, as seen in these two graphs, people are more engaged with print magazines rather than digital magazines.
“A lot of writers feel like they’ve made it if they have something in print versus something on a digital platform.”
Forbes calls a writer’s name in print a validation point. Many writers, according to Forbes, feel like their career has really set off once a reputable literary publication has published their work.
The feeling a writer gets in seeing their name in print is something that cannot be replicated with a digital publication, according to Forbes. He recounts the first time he had this moment of elation below.
The Fate of Crab Orchard Review
The Southern Illinois University-based literary magazine faced a dilemma many magazines have been going through.
With a decrease in the budget, the magazine had to choose whether they wanted to continue in print, which they have been doing since 1995, despite the costs or if they should go fully digital.
Forbes tells the story of their decision and the aftermath below.