Having become as ubiquitous as ‘nature vs nurture’, it’s only to be expected that the publishing industry is having a hard time de-coding its 21st century challenge: print vs digital.
Sure, take a look at every recent market report and it’ll tell you that digital consumption and subscriptions are consistently increasing. The question is, will it continue? Is print really going for good Recent research conducted by YouGov found that UK magazine buyers still feel a strong affinity for print, and this is especially true of women; fashion publications, largely read by women, therefore get to take the lead of optimism and redefine the future of publishing.
Somewhere and somehow an assumption has been made (ignorantly, or perhaps arrogantly) that, as the world becomes increasingly digital, we’ll want to switch up our print magazines and simply swap it for a copy on one of our many devices instead. But is anything ever that simple?
Despite the stats, a loyal army of print readers continue to buy a physical copy of their favourite magazines and yet, ironically, it’s all a part of the same industry that consistently writes that the future only sees digital. The issue, perhaps, isn’t that people aren’t reading in print because ‘digital is the future’, but that there’s now so much competing content online that we simply just don’t have the time to consume it all. Perhaps the war of print and digital is simply a red herring for a more sinister backdrop: do consumers want traditional content at all?
Could it be that print is dying and digital is in fact the cause? Love it or hate it, we now live in a world consumed by the insurmountable amount of free content available online. Consumers can get their fix of fashion photography on Instagram and still read fresh content written by a new generation of inspired bloggers, and yet without a piece of paper in sight. So why do we need traditional content anymore? Are we all simply experiencing content fatigue, naturally falling down the path of least resistance and finding ourselves aimlessly scrolling through our feeds as a way to satisfy the little interest we have left? We haven’t stopped loving print, we just have less reason to read it.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the industry though, because where there’s a threat there’s always a golden opportunity. As online retail is back to embracing traditional brick and mortar, it might not be so long until the print titles are being rolled out en masse yet again. The very fatigue working against the industry now could indeed be its future saviour. I mean, just how sustainable is digital? Perhaps I’m a rare exception or I’m living in the future already, but with the combination of reading content digitally alongside a backdrop of buzzes and notifications, I’ve certainly reached my saturation point already.
The psychology of people is incredibly complex and the art of marketing is to truly understand this space – data can only take you so far. The underlying problem sits with every brand trying to shout the loudest without any empathy for consumer overload. Sure, Vogue or GQ have a great offering and could easily get comfortable in assuming they’ll have an audience for life, but their marketing is only a tiny drop in the ocean compared to what ads consumers are bombarded with on the daily. Perhaps the answer is to step back rather than bulldoze forward. Trends aren’t sustainable by definition and so why not focus on redefining, not resisting, the trend?
The huge opportunity for the leaders in publishing is to steer us back to basics and leverage the significant advantages print has over digital. Print is an identity; a luxury and immersive experience alongside the relaxing touch and scent; it’s a needed distraction from a world of distractions. Brands need to use, not overlook, this as they knee-jerk straight to digital.
Perhaps this is just survival of the fittest in the evolution of print, with an industry revival on the other side. Perhaps, the future isn’t so digital after all?