How print magazines are staying relevant in digital age


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.

The expan­sion of that audi­ence is just as impor­tant and is a part of the rea­son why Sean Fred­er­ick Forbes pushed for the lit­er­ary mag­a­zine, the Long Riv­er Review, to go online.

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.

F( r )iction is a lit­er­ary and art mag­a­zine that offers its pub­li­ca­tion both in print and in dig­i­tal for­mat. For pric­ing, it sells for $15 for a print ver­sion and for $10 for a dig­i­tal ver­sion. For some, this can mean the dig­i­tal is the best option because it is cheap­er or it can mean the print ver­sion is worth it if it is only $5 more. Maria Lucy Ortiz is read­ing the ninth edi­tion of the mag­a­zine in her liv­ing room, with her dog Meela close by. Pho­to by Daniela Don­cel.

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.

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. 

Nation­al Geo­graph­ic post­ed jour­nal­ist Scott Wal­lace’s sto­ry on their web­site which dis­plays wide pho­tographs, a pho­to gallery of peo­ple with mon­keys on their heads and a map. Screen­shot tak­en by Daniela Don­cel.

Fash­ion Mon­i­tor edi­tor Sarah Pen­ny said with events like Brex­it and Trump’s elec­tion, read­ers are look­ing for the facts from rep­utable titles that have an author­i­ta­tive voice.

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.

Accord­ing to Wal­lace, when some­one sub­scribes to the Nation­al Geo­graph­ic, that per­son receives both a dig­i­tal and print copy. William Don­cel reads about the Nation­al Geo­graph­ic mag­a­zine on his tablet. Pho­to by Daniela Don­cel.

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

Mag­a­zine cov­ers are often the main attrac­tion for read­ers, such as for fans of the Game of Thrones series when Enter­tain­ment Mag­a­zine released a pho­to of Jon Snow (played by Kit Har­ing­ton, right) and Daen­erys Tar­garyen (played by Emil­ia Clark, left) togeth­er for the first time. Mag­a­zines are also great col­lectibles for fans of shows or movies, like the Col­lec­tor’s Edi­tion of US for the Hunger Games sequel, Mock­ing­jay. Pho­to by Daniela Don­cel.

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.”

- Nylon’s Global Editor-in-Chief Gabrielle Korn


Here are the top print mag­a­zines that trans­formed into exclu­sive­ly dig­i­tal mag­a­zines, accord­ing to Mag­plus.

1. Teen Vogue

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.”

2. Computerworld

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.”

3. Self

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.

4. Information Week

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.”

- Sean Frederick Forbes

In the Philip E. Austin Build­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut sits Sean Fred­er­ick For­be’s office, in which you can find all the copies of the Long Riv­er Review as well as of Crab Orchard Review. The Crab Orchard Review pub­lished Forbes’ poem “Beau­ty Salon” which he recounts in his anec­dote below. Pho­to by Daniela Don­cel.

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.



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