Print and Digital: What’s the Best Mix?

By Maureen Alley

Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that are the most innovative. The magazine industry has been trying to figure out for some time how to manage digital opportunities with its print products. And with that, some magazines try too hard where others excel.

Last year, during my New Media and Technology graduate class, we discussed Esquire’s October 2008 cover. This cover was different than any cover before it. The cover had electronic ink – an image that flashed and scrolled. FOLIO: magazine also reported on the cover in July 2008. According to FOLIO:’s article, the battery for the electronic ink lasts for 90 days and the issue sold for $2 more than the normal cover price.

Esquire’s October 2008 cover literally combined print with digital. But, I’m not sure that’s what is meant when we say we want to complement print products with digital opportunities.

On the other hand, magazines like BtoB are successfully using print and digital opportunities in ways that take advantage of the opportunities available from each medium.

BtoB magazine has daily articles on its website that are original content written by the magazine’s staff. They aren’t wire articles that are simply pushed to its site automatically. This provides the magazine with original content and its readers with industry information from a source they trust.

Articles on its site are set up for reader comments creating a community for readers. By providing this function to your readers, you’re making them feel valuable and part of the conversation.

In addition, each article provides the opportunity for the reader to bookmark, share, and e-mail articles. A big part of online success is syndicating content. By not including these functions on each article, you’re ignoring a viral readership.

The magazine also has a very strong social media presence. By following BtoB on Twitter, followers get up-to-the minute breaking news. This also adds to the magazine’s syndication.

BtoB magazine is used simply as an example of the many magazines that are doing it right online. There are many more out there. And there are many magazines out there that have yet to provide online communities for their readers, viral sharing options, and original content instead of wire content.

Where do you stand in this mix?

Maureen Alley is managing editor for Website Magazine, a trade publication dedicated to Web professionals. She was formerly managing editor for Residential Design & Build magazine, a property of Cygnus Business Media. Alley graduated with a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and is currently attending Roosevelt University in Chicago for her Masters of Science in Journalism. She has been a member of ASBPE since 2006 and was a judge for the 2009 Azbee Awards program. She writes a blog at about young journalists and new media. Contact her at malley13[at]gmail[dot]com.

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