Bo Sacks: The Profit ProphetThe Real Viability of Digital Editions
I’ve been inundated lately with e-mail requests about the viability of digital magazine editions. The letter that put me over the top was from an old and dear acquaintance, who is a senior production director, that said, “Digital editions of magazines will never get traction with the magazine-reading public.” This is a ridiculous attitude. And if it is yours, too, bury it now with other ridiculous ideas like the world is flat and man will never fly.
Perhaps Jeff Gomez, author of the book “Print Is Dead,” put it best when he wrote: “To expect future generations to be satisfied with printed books is like expecting the BlackBerry users of today to start communicating by writing letters, stuffing envelopes and licking stamps.”
Do we expect magazine readers to become any less sophisticated as time and technology roll by? Things change, platforms evolve, business models adjust, and people’s habits change, too. History is loaded with once-successful personal methodologies that are now nothing but antiquated dust.
This is not a discussion of whether or not print will survive. That is moot. What is important is how people will read in the future. Gomez’s comment is spot on. How people read today gives us the smallest inkling of how people will read in the future. I’d be curious to know the number of words read on a computer screen (including PDAs, cell phones, e-readers, etc.) versus those read in print.
Digital editions will play a central role in the magazine business’s future success. They are growing in popularity, and eventually will become ubiquitous. The only thing holding the format back presently is a perfect substrate. Computer screens are good for the task, but not perfect in their portability, flexibility and readability in various lighting conditions. What the industry is waiting for is a substrate that can match the robust nature and inherent abilities in digital editions.