Over the next five years, many print magazines will be transformed into digital publications. Digital magazines will come in two forms: a downloaded version that is available offline, and a networked cloud version that readers can access in real time.
As I flipped through a pile of magazines during my summer vacation, I realized the paper experience might be over sooner than we think. But it’s not all bad news, is it?
E-books and tablets are rapidly changing the distribution and sales processes for magazines and books, as well as the way we consume content. However, if you’re not yet an avid user of an e-reader and you haven’t even begun to transform your reading habits from paper to portable screen, there’s no cause for alarm – well, not just yet. While many of us are adapting to new technologies to consume our favorite content, more popular magazines will continue to exist in print. It’s all a matter of keeping the magazine’s audience happy by offering alternative formats while these are still required.
As larger chunks of the magazine audience move to electronic formats, I do expect the paper experience to become less common. Printing and distribution expenses make up a significant share of the production costs for paper magazines. As much as readers may love the printed versions of their favorite magazines, the overhead costs could force publishers to move to networked magazines only. Already, most magazines come with a subscription, or single-issue purchase, which includes access to an electronic version as an incentive to encourage readers to try the on-screen version.
The primary challenge for magazine publishers is to figure out how to maintain their readership so that advertisers stay on board during the transformation process. How do publishers ensure that their magazines can continue to attract readers after the transition? And how do they reassure advertisers that they can continue to reach their target audience even if the format changes? US subscribers can now subscribe to most magazines at only USD 1 per issue. It will be interesting to follow the business-model innovation for networked magazines in the future; we may see paper/electronic hybrids as well as pure networked-only versions.
I see a bright future ahead. Digital publications will make it possible to open up new advertising models with greater accuracy in terms of measuring the actual viewing of ads and the impact of each ad. The audience will be given access to video capabilities, adding a whole new dynamic to the magazine experience, and the marketing department will have the ability to share the magazine with a wider audience through effective social-media channels.