Charles Hassinger Posted on 8:19 am

How printed magazines can be successful

Print magazines have a future in the digital world – this also applies to the weakening IT press. Because of their special characteristics, printed magazines have clear advantages over digital media. What these are and how magazines can continue to be successful in the future.

Many print products have been struggling for years with a decline in the number of copies sold. The IT press in particular is suffering from this development. It is not only since IDG in the USA converted PCWorld to Digital-Only that the alarm bells have been ringing at many publishing houses. In this country, too, magazine titles are being buried and editorial offices are being crushed.

It is often said in this context that the days of printed magazines are numbered anyway and that the future lies in the digital world. Not only because it saves on distribution and printing costs, but also because digital reading has only advantages: with just one click you can hold the new issue in your hands, digital enrichment in the form of sound, animations, videos, picture galleries – lower sales prices.

With all due respect: that’s nonsense. Print lives and will continue to be a medium that is printed with journalistic content. The industry is changing a lot because of the web, of course. Traditional publications and publishing houses are being shaken up and have to reposition themselves. But to declare the print industry dead for this reason is nonsense.

The following comments refer primarily to journals and magazines. The discussion about the future of the daily newspaper and its printed version needs to be conducted separately – because other aspects such as topicality play a role.

Online people go for print

A tendency that can be observed in the past months and years: Large online media publish magazines, often in digital form. The video game magazine, which originally appeared as a PDF magazine, even ventured into the print world two years ago. With its high-gloss look, the print magazine looks extremely noble and aesthetically very appealing.

It differs fundamentally from other print magazines in the gaming industry: Instead of delivering page after page of reviews of games with a highly complex rating matrix, the electric gamer magazine is silent on percentage ratings, game fun curves and mathematically precise long-term fun analyses. Instead, the magazine makers focus on those aspects of games that are particularly suitable for magazines: Big, beautiful picture lead-in, appealing picture series, stories worth reading.

The niche is successful

It also makes little sense to simply bring another competing product in gaming print journalism onto the market – the current issues are struggling with an enormous drop in circulation anyway. Gamers get interesting facts about games from the Internet – moving images, screen shots, but also well-founded game reviews can usually be found much earlier on corresponding online media than in the printed magazines.

Anyone who makes print today must therefore be aware of exactly what content they are publishing and what form this content takes. A prime example of a magazine that combines the advantages of print products in their purest form is the indie magazine.

The advantages of print

So what are the special advantages that distinguish printed magazines in particular (which of course also applies to some daily newspapers)?

  • Closure: A print magazine is a closed product. In this respect, it functions like a book that invites you to browse. It is finite – which has its advantages compared to the Internet. The net is a source of information that knows no beginning and no end. Print products, on the other hand, have a clear division, assigning priorities to content. This also happens online, but the finite nature of printed titles makes their priority logic seem more consistent.
  • Layout: Print magazines offer enormous possibilities for using different layouts to add nuances to content, sometimes subliminally, and to link them to specific associations. Colors, graphics, images, typography, layouts – all this works better on printed paper than digitally.
  • Attitude: Perhaps the most important advantage of a print product is the attitude you adopt when reading it. Printed newspapers, magazines, and even books have the great advantage that their reading is necessarily offline. Because on tablets, for example, there are so many distractions that often prevent people from actually reading. But more than that: print products promote an inner attitude that has something to do with leaning back, relaxation and distance.

While we rummage through the web online and constantly have the feeling that better and more relevant content is just a click away, the opposite is practically the case with print: With print products, we entrust the title and the team behind it with the task of gathering relevant content – much more so than we do online. We get more involved with the content through this inner mindset, thus creating a greater distance to it – which makes it much easier to reflect and classify topics and articles more strongly.

Clear positioning, high-quality layout, bold content

So magazines and journals that want to remain successful in the future must first and foremost look at what is happening in the niche. The following points can be derived from this:

  • Clear positioning: More than ever, magazines need a clear focus on content. Simply continuing with a ten-year-old concept may be enough in the next few years due to a high basic circulation, but it is not suitable for the future.
  • High-quality presentation: Magazines and journals are taken in hand. The resulting experience must be as harmonious as possible. Layout, paper, cover – every detail must fit together to form a high-quality overall picture.
  • Bold content: Comments, analyses, essays, background reports, satire, reportages – the content is the essence of every magazine.