The main cause of the decline in print magazines is not consumer demand. It’s advertising.
Survey after survey shows that consumers continue to like print. There are some people who read digital editions, and some people who find what they used to find in print magazines on web pages. But the main reason print magazines are suffering is that advertising revenue is drying up.
Advertisers are leaving print because digital ads are easier to target and easier to track. With digital ads, advertisers can get the precise niche they want.
We all know that we leave an incredible trail of bread crumbs on the internet, rich with information on our likes and dislikes, what we buy, when we buy it, what articles we linger on, and so forth. All this information is used by advertisers to target ads to the right people.
It’s very hard to do the same in print. There are no very reliable metrics for which articles people read, how much time they spend on the ads or on the stories. And it’s hard to get people to go from printed media to online.
That’s going to change.
When everyone is wearing Google Glass or, as I predicted decades ago in my sci-fi book, The Intruder, when everyone has an implant in their eye reading a printed magazine will be just as trackable as web activity.
Right now it’s hard to get people to transition from the printed page to a website. It was hard with desktops, for obvious reasons, but it’s even hard in an era when people have a mini computer in their pocket.
Some people thought QR codes would solve that, but they haven’t. People seem to be in a different mode when they’re reading print. You can provide a URL, but most people won’t do anything with it.
That will change when people are reading a printed magazine through a smart lens. The transition from print to digital will be easy, and you’ll be doing it all the time, e.g., looking up ingredients for a recipe while you’re in the grocery store, or checking the reviews of a bottle of wine before you buy it.
Alexa is another technology that will revitalize print. (So will Google Home.)
You’ll be sitting in your arm chair with an adult beverage at your elbow, reading the latest issue of Brew Your Own magazine, and you’ll realize you really need that plate wort chiller after all. Conveniently tucked in the corner of the ad will be a special phrase you can speak to order it.
“Hey Alexa, buy the 4710 plate chiller from Maryland Homebrew.”
Both these technologies will make print media far more attractive to advertisers.
Somewhat along these lines, see this story: Print Books vs. Ebooks? (We’re Asking the Wrong Questions)
Making the print edition the hub of a physical + digital experience will be easy once we integrate Google Glass, Alexa, Google Home, and similar technologies.