Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No Clear Way To See Survival Of Printed Content

I was at the eye doctor the other day for an annual checkup that turned out to be my bi-annual exam, and while in the waiting room the receptionist walked by and randomly said aloud: “I wonder what would happen if we just got rid of all these magazines?” pointing to the rack of about a dozen different titles.  “I mean, everything is digital, right?”

And that’s how it begins.  Someone makes a seemingly innocent comment, unsolicited and suddenly a decision is made.  One by one, households, businesses, and medical offices are making cost-cutting measures and the thing that gets put on the chopping block is publications.

Everyone is walking around with an iPad, Smartphone, or laptop.  They are either doing work, socializing, reading free content, shopping, or buying digital materials -- movies, music, books, mags, and newspapers.  Print is dying, sadly. The question now is not whether print will survive, but when it will cease to print.  The next question is, once it’s all digital, will a publication still retain its circulation and remain profitable, given the reduced ad revenue and increased advertising, and reading options?

At one point it was thought that print and digital could co-exist, but they can’t.  The cost of print increase over time, as does postage. And as reader preferences move towards digital, the justification for print weakens.

On the other hand, printed books still make sense to me, and certain types of books need to be in print such as coffee table photography books.  I think printed books should begin to include advertising in them.  This could help publishers defer costs and price books competitively.

But for now and the near future, we will continue to see a contraction in the purchase of printed content.  And don’t be surprised if your local doctor no longer offers you reading material.  He or she may instead offer you an electrical outlet to plug in your device of choice.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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