Magazines: Going digital or going away?



Posted on October 5, 2010 at 12:50 PM

Ken Gabbara lords over a newsstand with thousands of magazines.

He's convinced the future has slick pages.

"I think most people still want to hold the magazine in their hand," says Gabbara, the owner of Paras News Stand in San Diego. 

Still, he admits the economy is playing games with the magazine industry.

Some titles have disappeared and others have become smaller or gone from weekly to monthly distribution.

"Times are tough, magazines are not a priority," said Gabbara.

The future may in fact arrive in the form of a digital newsstand, where magazines are not delivered to a mailbox but to an iPad.

"It's really just the beginning in a whole new era in publishing," says Zinio's Jeanniey Mullen.

Mullen is finding that popular magazines are looking for survival in the digital world. 

"It's really the perfect time for these magazines to reinvent themselves," she says.

Thousands of digital magazines are now available on the iPad, from Rolling Stone to National Geographic. 

What you lose in holding a real magazine and turning the pages, you make up for in other online features.

"360 view phones, slideshows, videos, quizes. A lot of the interactive and social elements that we love," Mullen points out.

San Diego State University marketing professor Michael Belch says the death of the traditional magazine may be greatly exaggerated.

"I don't think we're quite yet at the point where people are going to start adopting the electronic versions of things," said Belch, who admits paper magazines are facing an uncertain future. "We're becoming so used to everything being electronic that newspapers and magazines are certainly in a dangerous position."

Online magazines are not necessarily cheaper.

Some will cut their price because they don't have to pay for paper and postage, but because of expensive add ones like video, they are actually charging more.