Print Magazines or a Digital Magazine: What Do Readers Prefer?

The print vs. digital magazines debate has simmered away for years – and there are convincing arguments on both sides, as each has its advantages and disadvantages.

So do readers really prefer one format to the other? Are digital magazines better than print magazines? Or vice versa?

The answer isn’t always a straightforward one.

Essentially, both print magazines and digital magazines have their merits, and it depends on who you are as a reader, your personal preferences, as well as the content of the magazines, as to which format might be right for you.

Digital magazine vs. print magazine

There are many points of view around a digital magazine vs. print magazine, but whichever one you choose, you are (usually) consuming the same content, albeit in a different way.

The desire to read magazines as a product is still strong, especially in older age groups, but how people prefer to read them could be changing.

While online news is being consumed at an ever-increasing rate, magazines are still loved by many. In Australia, more than 15 million people aged 14 and above read magazines in print or online, either via the web or an app1.

And even though publishers are embracing the digital world, readers do still love to get their hands on a good glossy print magazine.

Nowadays there are so many options when it comes to which magazines to buy, and they cover so many topics and niches. 

Better Homes and Gardens is Australia’s most widely read paid-for magazine, just ahead of the Australian Women’s Weekly .

And as a category, food and entertainment is the best performing category in Australia.

While reading a magazine in one format doesn’t necessarily reign supreme over the other, there is a case that can be made for both print magazines and digital magazines.


Advantages of print magazines

Print isn’t going away any time soon – the preference for reading a print magazine is still strong – and there are advantages of print magazines.

For many people, reading their favourite magazine in print is a tactile and intimate experience. It’s something that they truly enjoy doing while taking a break and some time out from their day.  

People tend to be more engaged with the content they read in a print magazine, too, as they invest their time sitting down to read the product, and they spend more time reading the print magazine than they do when it is in a digital format2.

However, despite there being an enduring love for print magazines, print revenue in the industry has suffered a long decline over the past 20 years that has steepened during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

When publishing a print magazine, the costs of print production and distribution are higher and they impact the price the reader pays for the magazine. These extra costs can be eliminated if a magazine is created solely as a digital publication.


Advantages of digital magazines

There are also a number of advantages of digital magazines. For one, buying digital magazines online is so much simpler. You can buy them online from the comfort of your home, and they are delivered immediately, direct to your device or desktop. No waiting in line at the newsagents, or being disappointed when your favourite magazine has sold out at the supermarket.

Most people spend time online every day, so it makes sense to read magazines that way too. A digital magazine can also be more interactive than a print magazine with some making use of videos, audio, weblinks and other interactive elements.

A digital magazine is great if you are travelling or commuting, as you can read it on your device on the move, and it doesn’t take up space in your bag. You can even have multiple digital magazines on your device at one time.

They are good for the environment, as you forgo all of the printing and distribution costs when producing a digital magazine. Which is also a win for publishers, as digital magazines cost less money to create and improve profit margins.

Publishers can also increase profits by offering a digital magazine subscription at a cheaper price to the print magazine, which is an opportunity to bring on board new readers who may be unlikely to pay full price for a print subscription. 


To sum up

People love print! And it’s unlikely that will change any time soon.

Both print and digital magazines have their place. But to make sure a magazine is reached by as many people as possible, it’s sensible to stay on top of the industry and produce a magazine in a print and a digital format. That way, everyone is happy.


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