Digital Editions and Environmental Impact

There are sound business reasons for using Digital Editions. The bottom line is what drives most publishing and distribution decisions, and an investment in digital technology can improve the performance of all magazines. Yet there are also sound ecological reasons for the appropriate use of a digital platform. Publishers who have a concern for the ecological impact of the magazine business should consider these five principles in forming their digital strategy:

  1. Provide the consumer with the choice of a digital edition. Your readers will increasingly expect the option to have web access or a digital subscription and all of us are spending more time on the web. But make this a choice — not a forced move. Print still has its places and many readers prefer print, in which case they should have what they prefer.
  2. Promote with digital. Use digital editions to promote magazines and to recruit new subscribers and readers. For trial purposes a digital edition is almost always much cheaper than a physical copy. There is much waste in the traditional, newstand based distribution channel. A responsible circulation director will consider digital promotion and know how cost-effective it is in relation to ‘sale or return’ print copies, many of which will be sent to landfill.
  3. Price digital access fairly. Do not load the dice against the digital edition or the digital subscription by excessive pricing or other forms of discrimination. Users will expect a digital edition to be cheaper than a print copy. They will expect it to include all the content available to print subscribers.
  4. Deliver an enhanced service with appropriate web techniques. Empower your readers by providing them with additional value: eg fast access to a comprehensive archive, live links from the web edition, and the opportunity to bookmark or cite key pages.
  5. Ensure that advertisers also benefit from the appropriate digital strategy for your magazine. Support your advertisers by giving them the benefits which accrue from a digital audience and digital delivery, especially through improved response rates, interactivity and audience metrics.

We offer these principles, in draft form, and welcome any comments on them.