I now officially hate print magazines

By Steve Outing

There. I’ve said it. Now that I have an iPad (and love it as a device for media consumption), I really don’t ever want to see a print magazine again. If I could, I’d happily convert all my remaining print magazine subscriptions to iPad subscriptions, and be a happy guy. (And yes, I’m willing to pay, of course.)

For now, I still have a handful of print-magazine subscriptions, though most of my reading is done online on my laptop, on the iPad, or on my iPhone. What’s left of print for me: Wired, Columbia Journalism Review, and some cycling magazines (Bike, Bicycling, Mountain Biking). I also receive a few unasked-for print magazine subscriptions. That’s it. I receive no print newspapers and haven’t for some time.

Wired for the iPad: For now, that’ll be $3.99 per iPad edition, or else go to print

My reasoning is simple enough:

  1. I dislike the waste of trees and energy for physical delivery of my magazines; a digital edition delivered to my iPad is preferable environmentally.
  2. Print magazines pile up in various places around my house and office, and often don’t get read. Having them all in my iPad would be so much more convenient, and I’m pretty sure that they’d get read more (vs. now, when many of them get tossed in piles for later reading, and then I find them again when they’re months old, at which point they often get tossed in the recycling bin unread).
  3. Many digital editions are better, since they can include video, multimedia, interactive forms, etc.

Alas, the current state of iPad magazines is maddening. Apple, as has been reported recently, isn’t letting magazine publishers use iPad apps to sell subscriptions. Instead, we have the situation where Wired in print is $8 for an annual subscription (I just got my renewal notice). The Wired app on my iPad (free download) allows me to buy individual issues at $3.99; no subscription discount, courtesy of Apple’s resistance to permitting publishers to offer subscriptions. No thanks.

Ditto for Newsweek, but it’s even worse. The weekly per-digital-issue price on the iPad is $2.99 (no subscription offered), while a print subscription can be had for as little as $21 a year (54 issues) via magazine-subscription discounters.

Zinio offers a digital, save-trees alternative for many magazines. Via the Zinio app on my iPad, I can buy digital subscriptions for many magazines. Alas, the only one from my list of remaining print subscriptions is Bike, for $9. For the rest of my list: no option other than print. Wired, Newsweek? Not offered on Zinio.

I hope this is a temporary situation. It’s absurd for digital editions to cost more than print, considering the high costs of delivering print magazines to subscribers: printing, trucking, postage, direct-mail renewal reminders, etc. I’ll settle for the same price I pay now for iPad editions.

Here’s a tip for magazine publishers, once Apple relents on permitting subscriptions from within iPad apps:

  • Low-cost digital magazine subscription for what is essentially a replica edition of the print magazine.
  • Higher subscription rate for enhanced iPad edition with video and multimedia bells and whistles.

Oh, and those unasked-for magazines that show up in my mailbox? Sometimes they are publications that I’m interested in (such as our local city magazine), but please, offer me a free iPad or Zinio subscription; I don’t want print!

When is this going to get fixed?

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

2 Responses to "I now officially hate print magazines"

  1. Roger Plothow
    Roger Plothow 7 years ago .Reply

    Why aren’t digital versions of print magazines deeply discounted? Because there is little if no advertising revenue to subsidize the costs to produce the content! Even if you’re getting a replica on your iPad, the ad revenue is likely generated by bundling the buy with print, because advertisers aren’t buying online-only ads for this type of product. Why not? Because people don’t look at them.

    Don’t blame the “idiot” publishers. If they could produce high-quality content and distribute it essentially for free via various digital means and operate profitably, don’t you think they would? They think … really hard! They work financial models and look for the digital tipping point. But they also understand that if revenues don’t exceed expenses, they’ll be thinking really hard elsewhere. I challenge you to pull up an Excel spreadsheet and tinker with some financial statement models. Determine how many digital subscribers it would take to support a high-quality magazine, assuming that 80 percent of revenue must come from subscriptions, with 20 percent from advertising (essentially the opposite of the print model). Or, convince advertisers to spend more on advertising that they know doesn’t work as well as it does in print.

    While you’re saving trees and avoiding clutter, you’re not contributing a dime to the bottom line of the magazines you’re buying. That’s fine — it’s not your problem. But it would be helpful to consider the broader picture as you beat the drum (sorry — badly mixed metaphor, but I must get to work).

    At least, however, you’ve admitted that you’re willing to pay for some of this. We’ve made good progress here.

    Your mainstream conscience,

    Roger Plothow
    Ed & Pub, Post Register
    Idaho Falls, Idaho

  2. Kelly
    Kelly 7 years ago .Reply

    I’m trying hard not to be too much of a cynic. I like trees too, but if all we had was paper and no computers, we would save way more trees and use much less energy, so I don’t really think saying the ipad is better because it saves trees and uses less energy is really valid. Apple is green washing, and well, most people believe it. Consumption is the problem, not printed materials. And just so you know, we are harming our environment when we buy iPads.

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