Addressing the 'print-only' problem
Is the glass half full or half empty? In its latest American Magazine Study, media research firm Affinity cites a “dramatic shift” in consumer magazine readership toward cross-platform content consumption. But I see the numbers differently.
The study examines the “total magazine brand footprint” for 12 consumer publishers across print, Web, mobile and social platforms. (The website data comes from comScore’s Media Metrix.) Time Inc. has the largest total audience, comprising 114 million readers across 18 brands, as well as the largest digital audience, with 52 million.
The volume of digital readers is impressive – until you compare them to print-only readers. The study finds that more than half of each publisher’s total audience consists of print-only readers – meaning that the majority of the audience says they don’t access any content on the magazines’ websites, social media pages or mobile apps.
The leader in this auspicious category is Bauer Publishing, whose entertainment and celebrity titles, including In Touch Weekly and Twist, have a collective 87% print-only readership. The other brands fare somewhat better, but the print-only majority rules for each:
I’m not surprised that digital-only readership remains low, but I am concerned that there’s not a greater blend of print and digital readership. As an added twist, Affinity previously noted that more than half of all consumers (54%) polled in the American Magazine Study access some type of magazine content and advertising in digital form. Comparing the two sets of numbers, this means there’s a certain percentage of consumers who subscribe to a publisher’s print title but access digital content from a different publisher. That’s a bad sign.
The issue here is not about convincing readers to abandon print for digital. But publishers’ inability to convince a majority of print readers to cross over to any of their digital content is a troubling sign. Clearly, publishers must find better ways to extend the loyalty they’ve developed with their print subscribers into the digital space. As print ad revenues continue to decline across the industry, publishers need to redouble their efforts to improve digital cross-over.
Or maybe they should focus on capturing the attention of the broader Internet audience that is simply wasting their time on the Web. In a new Pew Internet survey, 58% of adults say they sometimes go online for no particular reason – just to have fun or pass the time. Among young adults (18-29), the percentage balloons to 81%. Think there’s an opportunity there?