I love reading magazines, and I love my iPad because it lets me carry 8 million titles around in one lightweight device. I can read my favorites anytime, anywhere – at the airport, in the subway, at the park or at home. But I like looking at print magazines too, checking out the covers at the local kiosk and sharing publications with friends and family.
Content, in all its forms, is more than information: It’s part of our identity. You can get clues to people’s true selves by checking out the magazines they have on display in their homes. A while back, I visited the home of someone I had never met before, and prior to our introduction, I noticed that he had a cool surfing magazine from Costa Rica next to his sofa.
I quickly formed an impression of him prior to our meeting, imagining a carefree, tanned, super-fit guy. When we actually met, he was nothing like I’d imagined, but during our conversation, I learned that this was who he wanted to be. The magazine symbolized an aspirational identity.
A coffee table magazine spread used to be considered an important part of a home decorating scheme – and it still is in some quarters. The magazines selected for display provide clues about the person who chose them, whether the topic is finance, sports, decorating or art.
This industry is shifting, though, with the publishing sector moving toward a digital business model. Newsweek, a prominent U.S. news magazine, recently announced it would cease print publication and move to an all-digital format at the end of the year. Editor Tina Brown described the move as an embrace of the future of publishing.
Some have criticized Newsweek’s strategy, and many prominent authors are famously suspicious of e-books, preferring to see their work preserved in print because it seems more tangible and sustainable. And it’s true that when you see someone on the subway reading a book, you might envy him his literary adventure, whereas if you observe someone looking at a tablet, you might assume she is playing Angry Birds.
Print publications give us a feeling of permanence. Magazines and books have a physical presence that can remain in the home or office for months or even years, while Internet content and ads can disappear into cyberspace in an instant. If publishing is inevitably moving toward a digital format, what does this mean for the future of publications as an identity marker?
I think the interconnected nature of our devices will make all the difference. We’ll still share our identities – maybe even on coffee tables. But instead of sharing them only in our homes and offices, we’ll share them with a wider circle via social media.
Print media isn’t going away anytime soon, but savvy publishers will build a bridge to the digital world, giving print advertisers a more permanent home on their pages in cyberspace and allowing readers to share their identities – actual and aspirational – with people they meet online. We are what we read, and this will remain so.
Mik Stroyberg is Director of Consumer Engagement and U.S. Sales at Issuu, the world’s fastest growing digital publishing platform, with more than 4.5 million publishers and host to over 8 million publications.