To print or not to print
“There will be no media consumption left in ten years that is not delivered over an IP network. There will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form.”
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, Washington Post, 2008
During my bachelor in Communication, I had the opportunity to do an internship at Foam Magazine. Foam Magazine is a quarterly international photography magazine published by Foam_Fotografie Museum Amsterdam and Vandejong Communications. During my time there as a trainee I was introduced to one of the biggest dilemmas in print media organizations in the digital age: how do we deal with the fact that new media technologies are making it possible that ever more content is freely available for everyone online and that more and more people are unwilling to pay for (print) content anymore. Personally, I have always been a lover of print. I simply love the smell and feel of paper and to be able to skip and turn actual pages, to hold a physical object. I’m also someone who still receives the newspaper at home and who enjoys the fresh ink on my doorstep every morning. At the same time I appreciate the endless variety of online magazines, blogs and news sites, to the point that I sometimes find myself asking: why buy it if I can consume it all for free, just a click away? Is there a future for print media or will it die a slow death? I find this debate concerning the future of print media very interesting, also because there are so many different perspectives on this theme. A lot of my friends think, just like Steve Ballmer, that it will eventually cease to exist. ‘Futurist’ Patrick Dixon demurs: he argues that the future holds more paper than people suppose and he refers to the emotional pull (just discussed) the print media has on consumers.
The question at Foam Magazine was basically how to cope with all the online competition, such as the broad range of upcoming photography blogs in all different kinds of genres – fashion, documentary and the like. At that time, we had the idea to publish the full magazine online by implementing Issuu on the website of the magazine. We were convinced that it would work as a teaser to seduce people to buy the actual magazine. The thought behind that was, if people really got to know the magazine from the inside, if they were able to see the beautiful rhythm, colors and photography of the magazine on their screen, they would be more eager to have the magazine at home perched on their coffee table. One can understand this is a hard decision to make as a publisher, because it throws up certain important questions: are you not then simply giving the magazine away? How will your readers feel about this change? Are they still willing to pay for the magazine if they can already see and read it online? Eventually the magazine performed a complete about turn, and stopped publishing the entire magazine online.
It has become clear that a lot of print media are still looking for the right concept or balance for their on- and offline publishing. The digital age has transformed the publishing landscape and for a lot of print media this meant increased distribution. The future is uncertain and many media organizations are still trying to shape the process of multiple platform publishing. I’m excited to see how the print magazines will survive in the age of the World Wide Web.