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We Are Digital . . . We Love Print

Recently a friend “confessed” to me that whenever his family needs to buy a major appliance, they subscribe to Consumer Reports online and then unsubscribe once they make the purchase.

I said, “I get the monthly magazine in the mail.”

photo: Linda Bernstein

We were on Zoom so I could see his jaw actually drop.

“There’s more to Consumer Reports than product reviews,” I explained.

Yes, I do love the quirky things about the physical magazine, like the inside back cover that features reader-sourced pictures of ads and product labels gone wrong (something priced at $59.99 on a rack labeled “Gifts Under $50; a package of beef stew mix that says “just add beef and vegetables). But I also read the articles that advise how to pay less for better internet or reveal that some herb and spice brands contain lead and arsenic.

Apparently I’m not the only fan of print magazines who spends a huge portion of her life online. When I subsequently asked members of Sree’s Advanced Social Media Facebook Group, “Do you still subscribe to PAPER magazines? If so, which ones?” I found that folks seem to love physical publications. Frequently mentioned in this "highly scientific survey" (hahaha) were Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Vogue, National Geographic, the Atlantic and other periodicals known for their high quality production values — good paper, arresting photography, interesting cover art.

For any and all who have feet firmly planted in the digital world, the continued appeal of print is interesting — and important. Cyndi Stivers (Cyndi Stivers on LinkedIn, @CyndiStivers on Twitter), Senior Curator, TED conferences, who says she has at least 25 print subscriptions, provides some interesting insights.

  • People like predictability — even Gen Z and millennials. A print magazine turns up in the mail regularly, Stivers points out. You know it’s coming (even if our snail mail has recently been a little bit slower than normal.)

  • Reading print provides a sense of accomplishment. “Online articles have links to other articles. Click on a link, and you’re reading something else. So there’s a sense that you’re never finished, and that provokes anxiety,” says Stivers. “When you finish reading a print article,” she adds, “you feel like you’re on top of things, and that’s good.”

  • Print ads are often better than digital ones. People who subscribe to magazines like Vogue or Real Simple quickly own up that the ads are an integral part of the print experience. Stivers adds, “the digital version of advertising is based on making you click, and this ends up with the feeling that you’re being stalked all over the internet. Print ads are something you can consume visually.”

The lesson in all this: For digital to truly succeed, everything we create must reproduce the kind of quality experience we love in print magazines.

And that is certainly our focus at Digimentors. Our virtual event productions look like great television shows, not simply a Facebook Live or Zoom meeting. (Not that we don’t love Facebook Live and Zoom.) Our “after-action-reports” for our clients compare favorably with slickly produced corporate report binders. You can’t “stroke the pages,” to use Stiver’s phrase, but you can feel the staying power of everything we do.

[A small endnote to Sree’s Advanced Social Media Facebook Group’s print magazine discussion. Several people wondered if AARP: The Magazine counted as print. IMHO, if it arrives in your snail mail, yes. So college alumni magazines count too. Also, a shoutout to Amy Zipkin (@AmyZipkin), who not only frequently manages to be the first to answer the @Muckrack Daily newsletter’s “Question of the Day,” but also has a print/digital subscription that costs less than the publication’s digital only. And Donna Vislocky (@DonnaVislocky) scored an online/print subscription to Wired for the same price as digital-only.]

Linda Bernstein is VP, Education at Digimentors. She can be found on Twitter @wordwhacker and in Sree’s Facebook Group.

A special thanks to Neil Parekh, VP, Events and Communications at Digimentors. (@NeilParekh)


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