October 23, 2012

Are You Still Reading Magazines?

Seeing the reports that Newsweek will end its print edition (a digital version will still be done) resurrected the long-running larger story about whether or not print publications will exist in the future.

I am pretty confident that print books will survive for some time (though less will be published) but I have no hope for newspapers and little hope for magazines.

I went to Amazon to check prices on the magazines for poets and writers that I have subscribed to at some point. Of the ones below, I only subscribe to two currently (as print editions) and every time I get a renewal mail, I wonder if I should continue. Part of my hesitation is in questioning whether or not the magazine will make it another year. Subscribe for 3 years? That's a bad bet.

And there are plenty of small press poetry publications that need subscribers to survive. Even libraries and schools are trimming their periodicals subscriptions - or switching to digital (editions or databases).

And the cost of print editions (especially for magazine with little or no advertising) is quite high. Unfortunately, print editions are not that much cheaper - and many readers expected that they would be significantly lower.  Although digital brings down the production cost, the cost of staff, office space and other budget lines is fixed.

I would be curious to hear your answers (via the comments below) to these questions.
  1. Are you currently reading poetry and writing magazines?
  2. Are you reading print or digital editions?
  3. Would you be more or less willing to read them as digital versions?
  4. Do you still subscribe to these publications?
Of course, publishers also want to know these answers...


  1. I read a significant number of poetry and writing magazines, some in print, many more digital or partly digital. Some of the digital content is free.

    While I still prefer print, if print is unavailable and the magazine is one of high quality that I especially enjoy, I go with the digital. I don't stay with it if it is not easy to use or reflects lack of expertise in using technology. Frequency of updating also is a consideration.

    As more magazines go digital while still maintaining print, they need to offer more content online instead of just showing a table of contents. It provides an opportunity to build a solid subscriber base by showing readers the magazines are serious about presenting high-quality content in new ways.

    To go from print to digital-only subscription, I would expect the same high level of quality as from print and more transparency in accounting of how subscription fees are applied. Publication staff need to be up-to-date on technology, and be willing to use multimedia to display content.

    I don't think a publication necessarily needs to lower its subscription price when it goes digital. Publishing has an opportunity here to set what the model will be; however, once the "free to you" approach is taken, trying to swap it out to impose a content-access fee is risking readership. Plenty of newspapers can speak to what happened when they tried that.

  2. Does reading poetry in a digital format feel different to you, as opposed to reading a news article of a novel?


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