The news continues to come with gasps of amazement. Twenty years after its founding, SmartMoney magazine will dump its print edition in order to focus on SmartMoney.com! Twenty-five print staffers will lose their jobs! By the end of the year the Financial Times could have more digital subscribers than buyers of print copies! U.S. publishers report that foreign e-book sales last year increased 333 percent over 2010 sales! Is print dead? Or, at best on life support?
Probably not. A 2012 Reynolds Journalism Institute study confirms that tablet users continue to read print newspapers and magazines. Nearly half of Apple iPad owners and a quarter of Android table owners say they have a subscription to at least one print publication. A recent Pew State of the News Media study noted that a quarter of Millennials (18-24 year olds) said they read a printed newspaper the day before. Some 22 percent said they read newspapers at least every other day. That is compared with 40 percent of adults overall who say the same. The New York Times reports that 10 percent of its hard copy subscribers are Millenials; 9 percent subscribe digitally.
In the U.S., more print magazines were launched than closed in 2011, the same trend as evident in 2010. The Economist, a highly-respected British news magazine, writes about a new sense of optimism among publishers due to the increased readership of magazines. In fact, magazine audiences are growing faster than those for television or newspapers.
So, what accounts for the statistics of the first paragraph? The editor of SmartMoney magazine says the volatility of markets and asset classes has increased the need for rapid delivery of personal finance intelligence. Also, the magazine was losing ad pages. Thus the decision to cut their losses and try the digital model. Why is the Financial Times increasing digital subscribers at such a rapid rate? The magazine was one of the first to recognize the possibility of monetizing content on the Web and from the beginning charged for content that they made sure offered quality, rather than quantity. And, they were innovative in their approach to technology, opting for HTML5 very early on, with the result that their Web app drew 2 million users in less than a year.
What about the growth of foreign e-book sales? After all, a 333 percent increase is pretty amazing, isn’t it? Perhaps not so amazing when you realize that even after its phenomenal growth last year, e-book sales still represents only 6 percent of total sales.