Viewfinder: Paper vs. Electrons

If you are reading this in 2009, you are most likely reading these words as ink on paper, as 60,000 other Videomaker magazine subscribers do. You might be reading this on a web page, as have 300,000 visitors in a typical month in the last year or so. You might also be reading this as a digital magazine page, as 12,000 others have in a typical month during the last year or so. Some of you may not be fully aware of our digital magazine offering.

My column, Viewfinder, appears in the paper magazine for paid subscribers, and it also appears on a web page for anyone who wants to visit the website. Most web pages are not very pretty. That’s because they are created on-the-fly with PHP, a scripting language for producing dynamic web pages. Our capable production team here in sunny California designs our magazine pages. Real people doing creative work.

Our digital magazine is nearly identical to the paper magazine, except there is no paper. The digital magazine appears on a computer monitor or perhaps soon, on Amazon’s new Kindle. We can deliver the digital edition faster. The costs to create and deliver it are tiny (less than a penny) compared to the cost of the paper edition that appears in your metal mailbox each month (one dollar). Subscribers to digital editions can print the magazine on their computer printers, if desired. Depending upon the type of printer, ink/toner and paper, the cost to print a page is 20 to 80 cents. That’s between $15 and $60 to print an entire issue. It costs a little less to use FedEx Office Print Online, a web-based print-on-demand application in the U.S.

To summarize, you can read the articles published in the magazine as web pages for free. You can read them in the paper edition, delivered to your home for a dollar. You can read the digital edition for a dollar. You can print out the digital edition for about $45.

The best deal is the paper magazine. It provides the most value for the lowest price. Compared to the others, the value seems hard to believe. How can publishers afford to do this? The answer, beginning in 2009, is that many publishers can’t afford to any longer.

The magazine industry is in a tough place. Paper and postage costs are increasing, while advertising revenues are shrinking fast. Many magazine and newspaper publishers are reducing frequency or eliminating their paper editions. However, in the European business model, ad revenue contributes a smaller percentage of the income to magazine publishers – but subscriptions cost two or three times as much.

2009 will be a year of major change for magazines. But then again, if you are reading this in the year 2099 instead of 2009, you may not care too much about it, because you are reading this article on a web page, as publishers no longer use paper at all.

Matthew York isVideomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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