The pros and cons of digital editions

November 9, 2008

Canadian Magazines recently posted the news that the New Yorker is launching a digital edition, available to subscribers (print or digital-only) first thing Monday morning, when the issue comes off the press and before it arrives in most people’s mailboxes. (If you’re interested, you can register for a free preview.)

And this raises the question yet again: why have a digital edition? By digital edition here I mean a “virtual” magazine: the full magazine in digital form, typically complete with ads and even pages that turn, which I assume is what the New Yorker is featuring (I’m not a subscriber so can’t view an example).

I’ve never been a fan of digital editions, but I know some people are, so I thought I’d flesh out some of their pros and cons as opposed to integrating content into your site as a whole. Let me know your thoughts as well, and if your magazine has offered a digital edition, please share your experience.

The pros:
• Full artistic control, including quality full-size images (especially important for some kinds of magazine)
• Full print-style ads (ad sales people, tell me: would advertisers care as much about a digital edition-only subscriber as they would a print subscriber?)
• Control of distribution and easy paid distribution
• Can be quite easy to make and cost-effective
• Eco-friendly

The cons:
• Annoying to read (in my opinion, at least)
• Not indexed for search or linkable; not cross-linked to older/newer content
• Can be hard to read; requires zooming in and out
• May add layer of confusion for readers
• Short shelf life

The bottom line? If it’s part of your business plan and you think your readers will respond, go ahead and produce a digital edition. But remember, it’s a different version of your print product – it’s no substitute for a well-designed and well-executed magazine website.

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One Response to “The pros and cons of digital editions”

  1. mark Says:

    Friends don’t let friends use flash websites. Friends shouldn’t let friends buy into the digital-edition hype either. Just say no.


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