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Convergence in publishing

by Giles Turnbull -- 2000/09/13

Media owners are starting to realise the potential of combining an online publication with an offline one. They must also consider the perils.

This report at Media Central describes how two established web zines have experimented with printed publications.

It's a dangerous path to tread. With print comes costs, huge costs, and avoiding them was one of the reasons for publishing online in the first place.

So why are they even thinking about it? Could it be corporate greed, plain and simple? One of the suits decides that by issuing a paper version, they will be able to sell the same content again, this time to non-net users and newbies who haven't seen it yet.

Plausible as that sounds, it just doesn't seem sufficient justification.

The Media Central article quotes a Jupiter analyst saying: Print has permanence and authority that online does not have.

Well, not necessarily. Print is easier to read, yes, but more permanent? With the growing proliferation of caches and online archives, and the longevity of many of the best (and best-funded) web sites, permanence is not going to be a problem for online media.

As for authority; well, as an example, trusted news brands like the BBC and CNN are no less trusted online than they are offline.

Online publications should have the confidence to trust in the medium. This is not to say that print is dead, as many people (mainly those in print media) predicted when the web went mainstream - far from it.

But it is a sign that print should now be considered just one option; and that publishing electronically is equally valid. And probably a lot more financially viable.

Update, 2000/10/24
A study by analysts at McKinsey recommends that magazines should spend no more than a few hundred thousands dollars to build and maintain a web site:

Magazines are going to be losing money on the Web for years to come