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Denying the digital

August 25: Lately, several major publications have reached a high watermark, literally, in the digital world.

This month’s edition of Healthcare Packaging, a B2B magazine, became the latest publication to boldly embrace the digital world when it included an embedded watermark on the cover of its August issue. As a result, when a Web-enabled phone is pointed at the watermark a video is launched.

This type of experiment has become the norm among magazines as publishers try to incorporate more multimedia into their existing print products, such as recent forays into augmented reality. But even in an increasingly digital world, there are magazines that still exist as print-only.

Kentucky-based papers South Central Business Journal (SCBJ) and Down Home in the Barrens are two such publications still not on the Web. “Not being online keeps it real for me,” said publisher Jennifer Moonsong in an e-mail interview. “I am an old school publisher with old school values and people like to have something in their hands to read.”

Moonsong admitted her business product may have a future in digital, but Down Home is print-only for a couple of reasons, the biggest one being the local factor. A regional publication covering lifestyle topics, Down Home is supported by local advertising and a predominantly older readership. But that’s not her only motive for keeping to traditional beginnings. “The theme of the magazine translates to tradition and sentimentality and taking it online would go against the theme,” she said.

Most of the magazines still without websites are locally-oriented, or trade publications, which generally have a niche audience. Several that can be found listed in the Vocus Media Database include Color & Style, Accent West, Celebrity Hairstyles, and Sun Life Magazine, a senior citizen-interest product. One editor of a home decorating magazine expressed a desire to be online, but said her publisher, who did not respond to a request for an interview, was against the idea.

“A lot of magazines don’t make any money on their website. As a result, I think they have to ask themselves why they have one,” said David Garlock, head of the magazine journalism program at the University of Texas. “It’s a lot of time and effort to even have an online site.”

Even so, Garlock believes that it’s only a matter of time before everything is digital. “I talk to a lot of magazines. If you asked me would they all be online, I think the answer would be yes they will be, but today I just don’t know if they need to be,” he said.

Garlock noted the introduction of tablets and apps for mobile devices into the market makes it even more likely publications without websites will evolve to the Web within a decade.

For Moonsong, that time has yet to come. However, she does think more people would follow SCBJ if she put it online. But so far, no one has ever criticized the publications for not being on the Web. “I like having a real product with real images. I still read and buy a lot of magazines myself, and I think others do too,” she said. “We aren’t gone yet.”

-Katrina M. Mendolera

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