Monday, November 10, 2008
The pros and cons of digital editions

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.


- Kat Tancock
About Me
Kat Tancock
Kat Tancock is a freelance writer, editor and digital consultant based in Toronto. She has worked on the sites of major brands including Reader's Digest, Best Health, Canadian Living, Homemakers, Elle Canada and Style at Home and teaches the course Creating Website Editorial at Ryerson University.
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