Digital publications allow readers to access whatever content they want whenever they want it on any Web-enabled device. You’d think this would mean the demise of print media, but you’d be wrong. A recent piece in Folio reports a distinct preference for print format among young “professional” readers (that is to say, readers of trade, academic, and organizational publications.) Let’s look at three reasons for this seemingly backward-looking trend.
1. Greater Readability
Researchers have found that reading on a digital device is quite a different experience from reading printed material. People tend to glance at and skim a screen or monitor, instead of taking the time to read slowly and carefully. This behavior is well suited for bouncing from headline to headline, but it doesn’t match up with the slower, more careful practice of reading and absorbing the detailed, challenging articles that populate many serious trade publications. Readers find themselves better able to concentrate on these pieces as presented in print form.
2. Fewer Distractions
The Web can be a very distracting place, and the hardware by which readers connect to it can provide additional annoyances of its own. It can be hard to maintain proper focus on a complex subject when the same smartphone used to access the material is ringing, vibrating or making other distracting sounds. Pop-up ads, offers, and software notifications can also turn an in-depth reading session into a struggle. By contrast, a hard copy magazine or booklet is a passive device presenting no distractions whatsoever. Even the included ads are content to sit quietly on the page for later perusal.
3. An Untethered Experience
As anyone who travels a lot can tell you, Wi-Fi has its coverage limitations. When commuters or vacationers can’t establish or maintain a solid data connection, attempts to read their favorite online publication can be an exercise in frustration. Good old low-tech print magazines and journals have no such issues. Professional readers like being able to carry their physical copy with them on trains, planes, and automobiles, satisfied that they can enjoy those in-depth articles regardless of digital signal strength or availability. Not to mention that sharing a print publication is as easy as handing it off to someone.
A Challenge for Publishers
None of this would be a problem for publishers if modern print media didn’t present some serious obstacles, most notably the expense of producing and distributing regular issues for wide circulation. Some publications have responded by reducing their print circulation and number of issues while re-tooling themselves as deluxe “bookazines.” These solid, impressive mini-tomes can command higher ad rates and raise the overall image of both the publication and the organization behind it. More importantly, it gives readers the kind of experience they genuinely want, thus ensuring that they’ll be back for more.
If you serve a professional reader base, by all means maintain a cutting-edge digital presence for readers who primarily reach you through those channels. But keep your print publication alive and well at the same time because serious reading can help build a serious following!