Why ‘Going Digital’ Is No Longer Enough for Print Magazines

June 5, 2019

By Renée Ruggeri

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These days, it's hardly newsworthy when a magazine ends its print run. One of the latest to fold is ESPN The Magazine, which announced last month that it would cease its print publication (with the exception of special issues) due to profit loss and its readership residing primarily on digital platforms.

To combat this, many publishers are now paying more attention to their digital efforts and have increased their focus on social media, video, newsletters, and podcasts to make up for the lack of profitability of printed content. But having a web presence is no longer enough. In 2015, Meredith's Fitness magazine, which had a monthly print schedule and has had a content website since 2005, saw its print business absorbed by rival Shape magazine. The print brands that establish a strong digital presence — one that extends beyond a content website — will be in the best position for the future.

Two examples of magazines that are well on their way are Glamour and Bon Appétit. By incorporating in-person events and new digital platforms to host original content, in addition to website content, both brands have not only boosted and diversified their offerings but will also reach new audiences and hopefully generate revenue — a concept that has recently seemed implausible for magazine brands.

Since ending its print magazine run, Glamour has expanded its "Women of the Year" program from an annual awards ceremony to a multi-day event. As stated in an article from Business of Fashion:

"As publisher Condé Nast moves forward with its efforts to cut losses by tapping new sources of revenue, 'consumer experiences,' or events for which audiences buy tickets, are a key priority. …For the last two years, the awards were complemented by a daylong summit of panels and speeches before the evening's main event. [Editor-in-chief Samantha] Barry says she made a 'concerted effort to bring our audience into' her first iteration of the annual event by spreading the programming across three days."

By offering in-person events, Glamour stands out amongst the crowded field of women's lifestyle brands and truly embodies its tagline "Authentic, Accessible, Relevant."

One of the remaining magazines that is still in print, Bon Appétit is proactively expanding its digital efforts in an effort to maintain a connection with its target audience. The magazine now has its own channel on Netflix with a wide array of original programming. In the magazine's weekly newsletter, editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport wrote that the brand's YouTube subscribers are likely unaware that Bon Appétit started out as a magazine. By creating new types of content that are shared on digital platforms outside of the brand's website — including on the world's most popular streaming network — Bon Appétit has expanded its reach and captured new audiences.

Rapoport wrote, "Bon Appétit is a magazine. And it isn't. And I'm more than okay with that. …I know that smart, engaging content resonates no matter the platform or the medium — or the age of the reader (or user, or viewer, or listener)." While the likelihood of print magazines eventually ceasing to exist as we know them becomes more resounding by the day, the likelihood of publications continuing to live on in various capacities via websites and online content is also strong.

However, it is the brands that go further, that push the boundaries of "digital-only" that will prosper and have the best chance at rebuilding the world of media as we know it. Those who can successfully evolve from "magazine" to "media brand" will be the best case studies for success.


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