The BBC Radio 4 programme The Bottom Line had an informed and expert discussion last week on print magazines and their digital evolution. Many good points were made: Terri White, editor-in-chief of Empire magazine was particularly good on the ways in which magazines business models now have to be multi-threaded: covering some or all of print copy sales, advertising, advertorial, subscriptions, podcasts, Instagram, website and social media. The panel was also good at explaining how various and complex the medium now is. Most striking was the confidence of Wolfgang Blau, from Condé Nast International in the long term survival (20 years in this context!) of the printed copy. Blau sees the printed issue becoming “the physical anchor of a much larger sphere” (see the Bottom Line, @25 mins).
This is a very positive way of thinking about the future of magazines in an increasingly digital cultural mix. Anchored in print and physical issues but reaching forward into digital opportunities. We can enjoy the Vogue brand through its many digital manifestations, but the print issue with spectacular double-page spreads and superb front covers is a crucial physical reference. This chimes with another dimension to the magazine media that we think about a lot at Exact Editions. Just as the printed magazine is the physical anchor and a recurring periodical reference point, so a digital archive should for many magazine brands become a central digital reference. We often think of archives as ‘retrospective’ but a digital archive which grows, incorporating each future issue as it appears, becomes as much prospective as retrospective. This axis of projected and sustainable content growth is invaluable and unusual in the shifting mix of digital culture. For subscribers the archive and the user’s ability to link to issues and to search all the content gives continuity to the ongoing enjoyment of the magazine and its brand.
The complete Tablet archive has just been released on the Exact Editions platform and its 8,750+ issues provide a rich treasure chest of Catholic thinking and history for its widespread and loyal audience. All its digital subscribers can now browse through its 180 year history.
Although few magazines have an archive of the depth and scale of the Tablet, most magazine users who care about their brand and its focus will enjoy being able to sample all its recent issues. And as the magazine’s digital future evolves its growing archive provides its readers with a temporal and reliable anchor.