Is it the end for print?

Let me start by saying the digital world is brilliant—the number of things that can be done in the digital world is endless. But in just a few years digital has killed off entire industries, and many steady, reliable ways of doing things have, quite suddenly, become obsolete. Street directories and printed maps, film cameras, cassette tapes and CDs, landline telecommunications, pay phones, movie rental stores, fax machines, phone books, dictionaries and encyclopedias—they’ve all been relegated to the ‘retro’ shelf. Not magazines, though.

Let’s look at the origin of the word ‘magazine’. (People who work in magazines may have heard this a million times, but stay with me.) The first recorded use of the word ‘magazine’ was in the 1580s. It originated with the Arabic word makhzan, which means storehouse, and was taken up by the French (magasin) and Italians (magazzino), among others. From the early 18th century the term was incorporated into the titles of books providing specific, useful information to a particular group of people. The first was The Gentleman’s Magazine published in 1731 as a ‘storehouse’ of information.

I believe magazines will have a greater life span than printed maps, film cameras and fax machines, and here’s why:

  • Magazines are still around. Many of the things killed off by digital disappeared instantly, so the fact that magazines are putting up a fight is encouraging.
  • Importantly, magazines don’t rely on people to be coaxed into downloading them, they don’t take up precious space on our iPads or iPhones, and they give us a break from staring at a screen.
  • Most people appreciate there’s something special about holding a physical ‘storehouse’ in your hands. You can put it down and pick it up again without forgetting about it, as it’s not competing with hundreds of apps for your attention.
  • Magazines can straddle the best of both worlds, being available in print and digital formats. No app can do that.

Sure, the magazine industry has dipped and magazine publishers will have to change the way they operate (the smart ones have already changed their approach), but the origin of the word still rings true. Magazines are storehouses, and storehouses are very handy to have, especially in a world that is quickly becoming fully digitised.

There’s no question that print and digital are on the same page in many ways. They both rely on great content, great editorial and great design. Integrating those elements is the next step, and that’s something we love doing at Edge: accepting a new challenge and coming up with innovative ways of doing things.