Read All About It – Is Printed Media Still Relevant?

One of the biggest issues raised in the print industry over the past few years has been a growing concern that printed media is becoming irrelevant thanks in part to the introduction of new technology. But are we being too quick to completely write it off?

With the news last week of popular music outlet NME ending its printed magazine editions, the questions surrounding where printed media fits in today’s world have once again risen to the surface. Many are strong in the belief that printed media is ready to be completely replaced by e-books, computer screens and mobile phone apps, whereas others regard printed media such as magazines and newspapers as still providing an important contribution to both business and our everyday personal lives.

Grabbing a Mag

Wherever you stand on the issue, there’s no doubt as to the impact that printed media has had since the invention of the very first magazine all the way back in 1663. No matter the subject, you can be sure that a printed magazine has, or will, be published dedicated to it. Nearly almost all purchasable magazines use a subscription based format, enticing fans and readers to ensure they never miss the next edition or issue. According to a survey conducted by Press Gazette last year, paid for magazines are still maintaining regular sales, with only a few dropping in overall readership. Top performers for sales in the survey were:

  • Garden Answers – Increase of 41% to 27,957
  • Times Literary Supplement – Increase of 27.6% to 32,166
  • The Spectator – Increase of 15.2% to 82,585
  • Good Housekeeping – Increase of 11% to 454,697
  • New Statesman – Increase of 5.3% to 34,025
  • London Review of Books – Increase of 4.4% to 70,468
  • Country Living – Increase of 12.5% to 188,915.

Based on these figures, it’s clear to see that whilst more casual magazines such as Hello (decrease of 15.5% to 225,986) and Heat (decrease of 16.5% to 136,470) might be losing traction and as a result, their viewership, more specialist subject area based magazines are still drawing positive sales figures in a world seemingly dominated by digital screens.

Catching Up On the News

Once delivered daily or weekly straight to our doors, many have began replacing newspapers in favour of online versions and taking to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook in order to get their regular source of news. But are we also swapping out our developing memory as a result? A survey conducted by linguistics professor, Naomi Baron, concluded that when presented with the choice of using printed media or a digital screen such as a laptop, e-reader or tablet device, 92% responded that reading from printed media allowed them to best concentrate and retain the information in front of them.

However, many news organisations and online media outlets have recognised the need to appeal to both a new online audience and their more traditional readers, resulting in the launch of online editions of newspapers and popular media publications. This has specifically had an impact on many free-to-read newspapers who rely on advertising spaces in order to generate money to produce new issues. Many companies who have made the switch to online are now using a subscription based ‘Paywall’, where readers are encouraged to sign up and pay a monthly, weekly or daily fee in order to access both current and archived content.

Making the Switch Back

Paste Magazine

Whilst a ‘Paywall’ subscription structure may suit a lot of traditional publishers who have now made the jump to hosting their content online, it might not necessarily be the correct decision for the long term future of their brand. After requests from its readers to return to a print format, popular publication Paste returned to a printed magazine format after initially ceasing production back in 2010. Similarly, Spin, who cancelled their magazine in 2012, came to the realisation that its audience had expanded into a new demographic and as a result, knew that a print magazine would restore their nostalgia factor. Whilst not completely abandoning their online presence entirely, both brands reported an overall increase in their viewership, due in part to the choice now provided to their readers on how to digest their content, whether it be in printed media format or on the magazine’s website.

Whilst we might be becoming obsessed with the latest technology trends and devices to view our roundup of news and information on specialist areas, it’s important to realise that printed media still holds importance in providing choice for both customers and the common reader.



Press Gazette – UK Magazine ABCs: Winners, losers and full breakdown

The GuardianWhy reading and writing on paper can be better for your brain

CNBCWhy some magazines are going back to print

Sam Rose