The seemingly inexorable shift to digital is not a universal trend.

Some magazines are seeing a rise in their print sales and others are making a conscious shift to print form. We take a look at the visionaries bucking the trend…

The Pew Research Center report into the State of News Media 2016 showed that the downward trend of newsstand sales continued in 2015, on average down 3% from 2014. However, it noted that “the extent of the trend is inconsistent across titles”.

Of the 14 titles studied in its 2016 report, figures ranged from a 37% loss to a 65% gain.

New York Magazine (with newsstand sales up 44%) and The Nation (newsstand sales up 65%) were leading the industry in a key indicator of a magazine’s editorial appeal and a metric that suggests that consumers aren’t quite ready to give up their print copies.

Something to Savor

New York based online magazine Paste’s mix of Music, Movies, TV, Comedy, Games, Books, Comics, Theatre, Design, Style, Visual Arts, Tech, Food, Drink, Travel, Politics, Media, Business, Science, Health, Wrestling and Soccer attracts more than eight million unique monthly visitors. Founded in 2002 by editor-in-chief Josh Jackson, it has just launched a new quarterly print edition.
It ceased its monthly print edition in 2010 to focus entirely online, but is now going back to print. The new quarterly will be a luxurious print magazine which includes a new vinyl Paste Sampler featuring the best of new music.

Editor-in-Chief Josh Jackson explained the move in a recent interview with CNBC:

There is some aspect of it that is a throwback… there is something about having a physical product. If you are going to own something it should feel and look beautiful and it should be something to savor.

The Cult Status of Print?

Paste Magazine isn’t the only online publication returning to print. Spin magazine published a special print edition in October 2016 – its first since 2012.
Stephen Blackwell, former CEO of Spin, and now Chief Strategy Officer at the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group which has since acquired Spin magazine, thinks that the attraction of print can be likened to the resurgence in Vinyl.

When the vinyl resurgence happened in 2008, that was very much in response to music being digitized,” he says, “For this 18- to 34-year-old millennial generation, I think there is a bit of a nostalgia factor. There is a totally different experience bouncing around a print component. It forces you to focus in on what you are doing.

The Spin print edition was a limited run sponsored by Amazon to promote its show “Good Girls Revolt” – about 15,000 copies were distributed at hotels, record stores, barber shops and other cultural hubs and it was supported by a corresponding digital edition.

Amazon’s campaign asks questions about how publishers could leverage print copies to drive their own digital sales, boosting digital subscriptions and making paywalls more viable.

The idea that a digital business like Amazon wants to use the attraction and nostalgia of print for promotional purposes certainly breathes new life into the role and future of print media.