Service of Print

June 21st, 2012

Categories: Magazines, Newspapers, Tradition

print

I continue to see people on trains, subways, in our apartment house [as evidenced by piles left outside front doors for garbage pickup] and in the library who read magazines and newspapers. There is increasing evidence print-vs-tabletthat while the print patient is sick, not all of it is on life support.

My observations are anecdotal, for sure. But take a gander at some of the things I’ve read lately:

From the Wallets of Billionaires

Warren Buffet told The Daily Beast‘s  Howard Kurtz why he has and continues to buy newspapers: “‘It’s not a soft-headed business decision,’ the 81-year-old investor tells me from his Omaha office.” Kurtz continued: “In putting his considerable money where his mouth is-Buffett’s company is in the process of buying 63 Media General newspapers for $142 million-the chief executive is challenging the widespread belief that the industry is trapped in a death spiral.” The papers he’s after “have to serve smaller markets where there is ‘more of a feeling of community,’” wrote Kurtz.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reads eight traditional newspapers a day and says “he prefers magazines the old fashioned way, despite having an iPad,” according to news aggregator Mediabistro.com, covering posts in VentureBeat and FishbowlNY. The news sources remind us that most of Bloomberg’s fortune has been made in the digital news and data service businesses.

Fashion and Beauty’s Youth Appeal

woman-and-magazines1And print isn’t just for old fogies. In Adweek, Emma Bazilian recently covered statistics to prove the point in “Condé Nast Finds Magazine Readership Growing Among Millennials.” Note: I was confused by the word “millennial” in the title as the youngest of the millennials, who can be as old as 37, is 23 yet the article spotlights readers in the 18 to 24 age range.

Nevertheless, “Fashion and beauty magazines attract about 50 percent more young readers than they did in 2001, and while young women typically ‘grew out’ of these titles fairly quickly as they aged, they now read these magazines long after they leave their mid-20s.”

Bazilian continued,  “Men’s magazines also gained ground with the 18-to-24 set, thanks to the addition of lad mags like Maxim and the ‘phenomenal growth’ of male fitness titles such as Men’s Health.” Bazilian was quoting Scott McDonald, svp of market research for the publisher.

Not surprising, the pulse for women’s service and news magazines is increasingly weak. The former, according to the article, didn’t keep up with the fact that most of their readers no longer stay at home and millenials turn to the Internet for news.

Mobility

sonytabletThen there’s Tracie Powell, in Poynter, who wrote “Consumers aren’t rushing to replace their magazine and newspaper subscriptions with mobile news products, according to a new survey by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.”

Her article, “Survey: Mobile users as likely to be print news subscribers as non-mobile users,” continued “The survey shows that although nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults use at least one mobile device per day, nearly equal percentages of mobile media device users and non-users – 39.8 percent and 40.2 percent respectively–said they still subscribed to at least one newspaper or news magazine, which suggests users of smartphones and tablets aren’t abandoning print media.”

Another of Powell’s points: “The survey shows ‘news consumption ranks fourth among reasons people use mobile devices, behind interpersonal communications, entertainment, and internet usage for information not provided by news organizations.’”

So where are you on the life of print? Am I looking at mortally wounded vehicles of communication and sources of information, placing hope on the thinnest strands of signs of life? Will the publishing industry–and some of the billionaires who continue to enjoy holding paper when they read–find ways to save print?

old-fashioned-ambulance

12 Responses to “Service of Print”

  1. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    I’m afraid the billionaires are only interested in profit, Jeannie.
    They don’t care whether print or electronic publishing brings it to
    them; they’re not out to save anything except perhaps their own
    fortunes.

    I don’t fancy reading my newspaper online, and I’ve already tried
    reading shelter magazines there, too. Not very satisfying. Maybe it’s
    generational; I’d accept that. However, I know a lot of people who
    prefer holding books or magazines in their hands rather than reading
    either online.

    So, what’s the compromise? I think printed media will continue to
    exist—perhaps as a bridge to specific digital sources—as long as
    advertisers are content to be or become clients. I don’t see any
    saviors rushing in to rescue the industry; I think the industry will
    have to rescue itself.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Mervyn,

    I was part of a group at the Hearst App Center. The transfer of-print-to-tablet and other mobile devices industry is in its infancy where magazines are concerned but the promise is quite exciting.

    Some of the magazines are already designed for the tablet’s snazzy bells and whistles, taking advantage of the technology, but the majority are been plopped in the digital venues with little change or with a few intermediate exciting tweaks.

    Until technology has improved so that there’s value added to read the digital versions on mobile devices, at least where magazines are concerned, and as long as the print advertising price is right, I think that the best will survive in print.

    What was quite fabulous was to see how a digital stroll through a food magazine could lead to a marketing list representing the food you needed for the recipes that interested you, divided by category–dairy, meat etc.—and with ingredients added up so you’d know you needed three sticks of butter, six eggs etc. Hit “print” and you’re off to the grocery store. What was interesting was that the items on the list are generic, so you wouldn’t see “Mazola oil” or “Land O Lakes Butter,” or “Carolina Rice,” only vegetable oil, butter and rice.

  3. Hester Craddock Said:

    Being from birth hopelessly clumsy, I refuse to use so called “hand held” devices. I simply am unable to make them work properly. However, I do access the internet – awkwardly. One has little choice these days but I do so to stay informed since “Big Media” is increasingly falling into the manipulating hands of a very few conniving mega monopolists.

    That’s bad enough, but even worse is an alarming tendency on the internet to inform by video instead of in writing. I find this so appalling that if someone sends me such videos, I refuse to watch them.

    I disagree with you. I do believe that print is in danger and that the world of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” will soon be ours. Just look at the quality – particularly the dismal quality of most of the prose and the attention not being paid to detail and appearance — of what is being printed these days. And remember that illiterate people are far easier for the mega rich who are rapidly growing richer to control than people that do read.

    Incidentally, I noticed that you yourself have abandoned print. You reference exclusively internet sources in your post!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hester,

    In today’s post, I did reference only Internet sources but that is because I usually refer to articles I’ve read in print! But you are right and very observant!

    The videos I see and forward to friends are often for fun. I will also look at events I missed, such as the Queen’s Jubilee. I was also able to hear and see David McCullough’s commencement address that I wrote about in a post. So I enjoy videos and am grateful for them!

    I’m afraid that many of the magazines I used to love have fallen into the sad pit you describe–they are not worth even the paltry $9/year subscription cost. As Mervyn commented, it will be up to the people responsible for print to save it.

  5. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Very thoughtful and thought-provoking, Jeanne. I still prefer print to electronic reading material, although I do confess to catching up on breaking news online…but this is as an alternative to television. I still seek out and read the printed material when it comes out, especially the analysis and commentary. And glossy magazines are still just that: glossy…and opulent…and aspirational. A hopeful bride-to-be may certainly use the online process to streamline her registry, but not to seek out her wedding dress! In the final analysis, there is a visceral pleasure that comes from seeing, smelling and touching a book, leafing through a magazine and reading a daily newspaper. I believe that the publishing industry is falling victim to its own, self-fulfilling prophecy of doom…but it is not to late to avoid total disaster!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Donna,

    I read your beautifully crafted response and thought of the first demise of FAO Schwarz. Schwarz lost its way. It forgot who it was and what it did best. It panicked and tried to compete with Toys ‘R Us at a Fifth Avenue address. It didn’t recognize that mothers would pay more for their brand of Play-Doh because it didn’t stain their upholstery and carpets as the discount brand did. It forgot about the prestige of its logo and packaging and the happy heart palpitations of children anticipating opening packages wrapped in it. I wrote about it at the time.

    To distinguish themselves, my advice to print publishers is to bring on board more writers like you along with the best graphics talent and photographers. Knock us all out. To some youngsters discovering print it will be “new.” Voila!

  7. Debby Brown Said:

    Someone once noted you are either a native to technology or an immigrant. I belong to a woman’s book club with the age span of 50 – 75. When it first started several years ago, I was the only one with a Kindle. There was a general resistance to reading on an electronic device. Slowly, and one-by-one, the majority are now either on Kindle, iPad or the new Nook. It took education to overcome their resistance: “Come on! Try it out! See how easy it is to operate!” Sometimes, it was prodding by children or grandchildren.

    I agree with Merv that both forms of media will exist. But there is no question in my mind that it is generational. We can’t forget most of the college age students have grown up with electronic media. And, there is the issue of “monitizing” the format.

    Just renewed a year’s subscription to Architectural Digest for $10.00! What does this say about publishers seeking readers?

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Debby,

    I still pay $40-something for the New Yorker, but it’s a weekly so….I notice that after years of complaining to this publisher that as a longtime subscriber, I wanted the cheaper price touted on the blow-in cards–and that’s the amount I’d send them and I’d continue to get the magazine–they are offering the better price to current subscribers. Guess I wasn’t the only one to whine!

    Now you’ll tell me it’s almost free as a download on a tablet!

    I’ve written before that when we travel, my husband seems to choose the heaviest book on the shelf to schlep along. The tablet format would help in this regard.

  9. ASK Said:

    I was struck by Donna’s comment about using the Internet for breaking news as opposed to television, realizing that I do the same thing. I haven’t watched the evening or 11 o’clock news in quite some time; these days TV news seems focused on the weather and the latest local disaster.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    I, too, like you, Donna and Hester use the Internet for breaking news as well as colleagues at the office who do the same. In fact they yell out “so and so was acquitted” or “won” or “married” or….so that’s the other way I hear news. I’m not home in time for the evening news and don’t watch the 11 pm one either.

  11. Lucrezia Said:

    Print, in one way or other, will always be with us, but not necessarily in its present form. Already technology appears to have taken over in the book and newsprint department, and there’s a distinct possibility that no one will think of holding paper several centuries from now. What will happen to post offices and their thousands of employees is worrisome, but that concern lies with another generation. In short, society will have to roll with the punches – as it usually does.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Looking at the mini pile of mail that comes daily to all the companies in this office–almost none anymore–I fear that the post office situation you forecast will happen sooner than we think. Thousands more people on unemployment is scary.

    I wonder if the print industry will follow something like furniture, where today you can buy cheap-o stuff that doesn’t last long, analogous to digital material that will be lost when it can’t be downloaded by new technology, and handmade heirloom pieces made by craftsmen, which might become the printed books at $100 or magazines at $20 a copy.

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