Georgina Heffernan on why printing in a digital age isn’t so out of touch with the modern artistic zeitgeist.
Despite the constant ringing of the death knell for print, amid the clamour of the ever-crowded digital market, readers are not leaving the print world in their droves for the allure of scroll, tap and click.
Vogue sells 192,763 print copies compared to 8,314 digital ones; Good Housekeeping 410,981 compared to 3,561. Here in Ireland the newspaper of record, The Irish Times, has a circulation of 76,000 with a readership of 317,000 – compared to 427,000 for both print and digital.
While it’s true that people are used to getting free content online, advertisers are finding that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make money from digital editions.
People go online to get breaking news – and the web is fantastic for that, but would you really want to read a ten-page feature story online?
The mystique of a magazine is also something that cannot be translated through the screen, and the beauty of a well-designed double-page spread is something that works in print alone. This is something that advertisers intrinsically understand; it’s known as ‘the presenter effect’. Show a picture of a designer dress in a newspaper and people will perceive that it is worth at least €100 less than the same dress presented on the pages of a glossy magazine. Environment is everything.
One of the downsides of the digital age is that we spend a lot more time staring at the screen on one electronic device or another. In many cases, too much time.
There is a huge element of treat that goes with buying a high-quality magazine
You wake up and before you’ve had even a sip of your morning coffee you’ve probably checked your smartphone, scrolled through your Twitter or checked the newsfeed on Facebook.
You go to the office and spend the day looking at your computer. In the evening you’ll probably be dual-screening, watching TV while absent-mindedly flicking through websites on your iPad. I think it’s time that we reached for the off button – and the printed word is a welcome relief from the pixellated world we find ourselves in.
My business partner Deirdre Fitzpatrick and I firmly believe that just as people will continue to read books, they will continue to read magazines. We both fell in love with magazines long ago, as much for the smell of the ink as the content and format.
We have heard so much ‘expert opinion’ on how glossy magazines are an endangered species, but luxury magazines are actually one of the few sectors that have proved to be immune to the downturn.
The reason they are enduring is that they are very difficult to replicate. You can find the information you want on a website – and sometimes that’s all you want – but there is a huge element of treat that goes with buying a high-quality magazine.
I know of nothing more voluptuous than sitting with bright pictures upon my lap and turning the beautifully designed pages of a magazine. I love the feel of the paper, the smell of the ink, the way the pages lay perfectly flat against one another, the sharpness of the corners, and the very touch of its smooth cover.
For me, it’s the ultimate ‘me time’ and a welcome escape from our increasingly digitised culture. Digital may be a great place to go for a quick update or to catch up with the headlines, but who wants to read a long-form article online? Digital is designed to be quick and convenient. Print is desirable for its detail and depth.
Despite the seemingly unstoppable rise of digital magazines, there is still a huge demand for print
For now – just like the theories that the advent of video would ‘kill the radio star’ and that TV would spell an end to cinema – despite the seemingly unstoppable rise of digital magazines, there is still a huge demand for print.
According to Magazines Ireland, the sustained demand for print is against a backdrop of growth across digital channels. Digital editions of magazines provide new and exciting environments for more interactive advertising and live events continue to grow.
In the reality of the modern publishing environment there is a demand for more and better content, and this demand needs to be met with limited resources. Remaining competitive and keeping up with developments in the industry is essential for success in the magazine world.
THE ALLURE OF PRINT
So what now for print and digital? And why does it have to be an all-or-nothing deal?
The two forms don’t have to be mutually exclusive: each can coexist in the publishing world, each providing a complementary offering, fulfilling the needs of readers at a particular place and time.
I see a beautiful image-led print magazine as an intimate indulgence to be enjoyed while snuggling up on the couch with a glass of wine or a shared experience with friends over a cup of coffee, while digital is more suited to those time-to-kill moments, a journey to work on the train or a quick news update over breakfast.
Digital does not have to mean a move away from print. Print is not on its way out. Far from it: for magazine lovers and editors alike, we see print as having a very bright future.
About the author: Georgina Heffernan is editor and founder of Magpie magazine, a recent success story from the hit RTÉ One business series ‘Dragons’ Den’. Heffernan has been working at the forefront of the fashion industry in Ireland for over a decade. Stylist, columnist, features writer and TV presenter, her well-honed skills have appeared on the pages of virtually every fashion magazine.
AT A GLANCE – THE IRISH MAGAZINE MARKET
Despite rising costs in paper, print, distribution and postal rates, and the intense competition from imported titles on the newsstand, the latest ABC figures show that Irish magazines are doing well.
- Seven out of 10 people in Ireland buy a magazine regularly
- 2.5 million adults in Ireland have read a magazine in the last month
- Irish magazines outsell their UK counterparts in every category
- 77% of women have read a magazine in the last month
- 60% of men have read a magazine in the last month
- 81% of women under 35 years have read a magazine in the last month.