Wedded to Print
December 11th 2015 - By Katrina Strickland
I’m thinking about glossy magazines and where they fit in an increasingly online world. When I wake up in the morning I reach for my phone. I check my emails, Facebook, Instagram and the sites of a raft of newspapers. Yes, in that order. Guilty as social media obsessed charged.
I think of social media as junk food for the brain, with the odd surprise vitamin stumbled across amid all that cheese. It’s addictive and, I strongly suspect, not particularly good for you. My husband has ignored the social media revolution altogether and seems way saner and much more sanguine than those of us scrolling through The Fabulous Lives of Others every spare minute we get.
But when I have a bit of real downtime – on weekends, holidays, occasionally at night – I turn away from my phone in favour of reading books and magazines.
I tend to reach for the hard copies of my favourite magazines rather than their online versions. I devour them in bed, on the couch with a cat curled up on my lap, on airplanes. I often read them in the bath; it’s much safer to drop paper into water you’re submerged in than it is an iPhone. My hair’s curly enough.
I prefer the printed products because of the glossy stock, the layouts, the photography, and little touches like the editor’s letters and the front sections of interesting, usually visually sumptuous snippets. When I look at my favourite magazines online I find that I miss stories. I also tend to read them in a rush, when I should be really doing work.
If I had to summarise my reading habits, I would say thus: I use online to get my news and information plus to check out what friends and colleagues are doing on social media, and I use the printed product – magazines and books – for leisure and seriously contemplative reading. What I’m pondering is whether my reading habits scream “weirdo luddite out of step with the world”, or whether I’m in fact a good little case study for where it’s all going.
The AFR Magazine print version has enjoyed good readership and advertising growth this year so I take heart that there are other people like me out there. Are there enough of them to keep printed magazines going? And if newspapers and newsagencies continue to decline, would I pay to have the magazines I currently get for free within newspapers delivered to my front door? Are there other canny ways to get a quality magazine like ours into the hands of those I know would appreciate it? Do we need to do to magazine purchasing what Net-a-Porter did for clothes shopping and if so, what should we do?
Running counter to all this is a parallel stream of questioning. It’s about how our magazine is best showcased online and on social media. Our stories appear on afr.com, our BRW Rich 200 and Young Rich lists are run online at brw.com.au as well as inserted into the magazine, and in October 2014 we launched a stand-alone watch website, watch-next.com, to cater for horological boffins.
So far so good. But I wonder, should we have a stand-alone website for the magazine or the AFR’s luxury content, or is it best to be part of a website like afr.com which has exponentially bigger traffic? How do we maximise eyeballs on our stories while creating an environment that plays to our sumptuous layouts and photographs and that gives advertisers the visual equivalent of what they like about our print product?
I’m not sure that anyone has got the online model right for long-form journalism, magazines in particular. Perhaps that’s why I’m still wedded to print. Perhaps if and when they do, I’ll ditch my glossy mags as quickly as I ditched cassette tapes and a landline. But I’d still have the problem of what to read in the bath.
Originally published in the AdNews The Annual magazine and online at Adnews.com.au on 11th December, 2015