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The Demise of Print Media February 9, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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As a long-time subscriber of PC Magazine, I was distressed to discover that, as of their February 2009 issue, they were abandoning their print edition and moving to an all-digital online publication model.  I’m the first to admit that it seems a bit odd to complain about an all-digital magazine in an online blog, but hear me out.

I’m all for nifty modern conveniences like computers and electricity, but paper provides a delightfully tangible user experience.  The feel of the paper, the sound of the pages, the weight of the magazine, even the smell of the ink: all contribute to the complete sensory experience that is reading.  While you can shift the glyphs to a screen of some sort, you cannot replicate the complete feel of reading.  As more and more publications move to electronic distribution, these non-visual components of reading will just disappear.

I like to read magazines cover-to-cover.  I don’t jump to articles, I get there in time, working through the magazine page by page.  You never know what you’ll find as you read your way to the main body of a magazine. A well-edited magazine places all sorts of interesting tidbits in your way, rewarding your sequential trek through the pages.  Letters, reviews, product announcements, and the like decorate the linear path through a magazine.  Digital magazines have no such meander available to you; you are expected to click (and click and click and click) to go directly to the stuff that interests you.  You may find what you want, but you often miss what you need.

Just as important, magazines go everywhere.  Planes and trains, cars and boats: you can read them anywhere.  When I backpack, I stick a magazine in my pack, to be read by headlamp in my tent after everyone else has gone to sleep.  It’s tough to get a connection in the woods; indeed, the whole point of the trip is to get disconnected.  I don’t want to drag a “reading device” with me on these trips; I just want to bring paper covered with words.  Plus, you can start fires with a magazine in a pinch.  Its name to contrary, no one is going to be burning a Kindle any time soon.

Finally, there is my visual impairment.  I suffer from a vision condition called “getting old.”  Teeny letters on teeny screens were much easier to deal with ten years ago.  Now, by the time the font is big enough to be seen, I can only fit a handful of words on the display.  Constant scrolling is the true enemy of comprehension.

So farewell, PC Magazine.  You shall be missed.  I hope PC World can stick it out a bit longer, but I am not banking on it.  I’ll hang on to my anachronistic role as long as I can: an agent of digital change clinging to ancient media.


1. Marc Sirkin - February 9, 2009

I’m in 100% agreement – I depend on paper magazines and even newspapers for a simple reason. When I’m holding a copy of Geek magazine (great rag by the way!) or the Sunday NYT, my focus is 100% on reading and absorbing the content.

This is totally different when reading while online (for example, while writing this comment, I accepted 2 new Twitter friends and quickly glanced at my email).

It is sad that PC magazine is going digital – the next step unfortunately may be that they go away completely.

By the way… your quote “I like to read magazines cover-to-cover. I don’t jump to articles, I get there in time, working through the magazine page by page” for me is spot on.. I do the same thing.

2. Chuck Musciano - February 9, 2009

You make a good observation: paper media promotes focused reading, while digital media enables distracted reading. You can certainly have a focused reading experience with digital media, but it’s a lot harder.

Plus, just try to lay on the beach, in the sun, and read anything with a screen!

3. John Baker - February 9, 2009

I am OK with digital media. I use a lot of on-line reports every day. What I don’t like is having a subscription to a paper magazine (PC Mag in this case) and then having it replaced with digital. I paid for the tangible paper in my mailbox… I like to read the magazine before bed and that is not happening with a laptop in bed. My friend has a Kindle and when the second gen comes around I will probably get one so I will have the portability I want at the price that PC Mag is willing to distribute for.

4. Vickki Stead - February 9, 2009

I’m with you too. I enjoy the feel of the magazine in my hands… and I usually tuck something in my bag with me for waits in between appointments or when I get stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. It’s also just not as relaxing to read something on an electronic device as with a good old fashioned magazine.

5. Mark Hartley - February 11, 2009

The other problem with digital media is that I can’t write on it, mark it up, cut it up for your kids school projects, bend it or fold it to remind you where you left off three days ago. You can’t even use it to wad up your gum after your through with it.

Sure, I can cut and paste and put the contents into a pretty nice report. But that’s work. Magazines aren’t about work. They’re about, about…. NOT work! The joy of getting magazines is as much about getting it in the mail, picking it up and even throwing it at someone to make a point (in a nice way of course). I’m with you Chuck!

Another agent of digital change clinging to ancient media.

6. Print, Slowly « The Effective CIO - March 30, 2009

[…] in Random Musings. Tags: Customer Service, History, Shopping trackback I recently wrote about the demise of print media, lamenting the loss of PC Magazine as they shifted to an online-only distribution model. I received […]

7. Paper Withdrawal « The Effective CIO - May 4, 2009

[…] Magazines, Newspapers, Technology trackback Loyal readers know that I periodically lament the loss of paper media.  While I certainly appreciate the advances we’ve made in digital stuff, the entire paper […]

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