Hi all... Jon Phillips here. I was the executive editor of boot, the editor of MPC from 1999-2003, and editorial director of MPC ever since 2003. If you're a faithful enthusiast of MPC and/or have corresponded with me in the past, you know that I won't feed you a load of BS. So let me be perfectly honest about our online posting philosophies.
When push comes to shove, all major content that appears in the print magazine is eventually posted online. Some content is posted as soon as it's written (and thus before the print mag is even laid out); some is posted when the print mag starts shipping to newsstands and subscribers; and some is dribbled out during the weeks after the print mags starts shipping.
For really high-profile articles, we're sensitive to being trumped online by our own fan base. In the case of DM2011, this compelled us to post the article as soon as the print mag began shipping -- precisely because we wanted to beat those readers who would scan the article and begin commenting on our build-out before we even got a chance to present the information ourselves. So that was a key motivating factor in posting the DM2011 story "early." We didn't want some Facebook, forum or blog posting stealing our thunder.
But I'll be frank with you all: Building up our online presence is a key necessity as the enthusiast population (and retail chains like Borders and Best Buy) abandon print magazines, and we are comfortable in taking a calculated risk in pissing off a few print readers in exchange for attracting more online readers. And believe it or not, we get very few print readers complaining about our online practices -- the number is small enough to risk a few disgruntled customers. Yes, it shocks me too. One would think we would have legions of print readers flipping us off with a big "F you!" but the complaints are spotty at best. I know this is of little solace to the folks on this thread, but we've been simultaneously posting and printing the same content for years now, and complaints from print readers about what one might call "pre-emptive online strikes" have been inconsequential in the larger scheme of all the factors that could hurt our overall business. I'm not writing this to diminish your heartfelt complaint against our company. But I do want to be honest in explaining why we do what we do.
Also, FWIW, what we do is the new norm in magazine publishing. Pretty much the entire print magazine business simultaneously posts online now. Why? Because the print business is under assault, and publishers are doing whatever they can to keep their magazine brands alive in a new media format -- i.e., online. Retail chains that sell print magazines are either closing (Borders) or kicking out magazine racks (Best Buy). Subscribers and newsstand reader numbers are dwindling as the entire world population has many more options as far as where to get their information (TV, Twitter, blogs, websites, etc) and how to spend their leisure time (video on demand, TV in general, video gaming, to name just a few). And leisure time itself is impacted as we find ourselves working more, commuting more, and dealing with more and more distractions. All of this erodes the traditional magazine business. Meanwhile advertisers are no longer supporting magazines like they use to, and for the magazines hurt the hardest, their publishers would have to raise cover prices to $15 and subs to $75 to make up the difference. But they know the public won't pay these prices. So they look for anyway possible to remain afloat -- including building out websites to earn back some of those advertising dollars.
Does everyone understand that magazines are "subsidized" -- that when you pay $12 (or even $20) for a yearly subscription to some magazine, the publisher is often selling that magazine at a LOSS? Twelve magazines over the course of a year cost way more than $12 to write, photograph, lay out, print and especially MAIL all across North America. And postal rates are only going up. Gasoline prices are killing the middle class all over, and not only when we fill up our cars at the pump. It drives up prices across many, many industries, including the trucking/shipping industry. America is a huge-ass piece of land, and getting MPC all across the continent costs a pretty penny. Anyhow, the point being, advertising has offset all these costs, and allowed publishers to essentially sell magazines at a loss. But those days are over. The print business is under assault, and that's why publishers like Future are building out their online presences, and taking smart, informed, calculated risks while doing so.
So why even buy a print magazine? Good question. And I can share an answer as a subscriber of some 20 different print magazines. First, I don't like reading long-form articles on a computer or even a tablet screen. It hurts my eyes, and on a mental level I just find it obnoxious. I want to read long-form content on paper, via reflected light. Second, I like the tactile feel of print, and the fact that a print magazine is bendable, and something truly tangible. I'm willing to pay money for this experience, but that's just me. Third, I like the convenience factor of print. I can easily read a magazine on the couch, on a plane, and bounce from page to page in a seamless, organic, non-linear fashion. I don't want to hit a back button or hyperlink to get to where I want to be next. Fourth, photography, infographics and overall design simply shines better on the printed magazine page. It's an experience in and of itself. It's rich, inviting and that much more dramatic. Fifth, I just like getting cool stuff in the mail! Having my favorite magazines show up in the mailbox is an event for me, and honestly I have no desire to read the content online if I know I'll be getting it in the mail within 3-7-10 days time. Sixth, I do make enough money every month to feed my magazine habit. Even a $20 yearly subscription is like three cheap lunches, and I get a lot more pleasure from 12 magazine issues during the course of the year than three middling burritos. In other words, the amount of money I spend on mag subscription isn't going to break my bank, and it's a cheap indulgence that I easily justify.
So that's my take on print versus web. I think if I were only interested in the pure, raw information itself, I would be fine with an online-only experience. But I like magazines, and I'm willing to pay for them. Sadly, this is an increasingly minority position, and that's why the magazine industry is struggling. If anyone feels that MPC print is a huge rip-off, then do the only logical thing: Quit buying it. I would expect nothing less from an MPC reader. Our parent company is prepared to deal with the consequences, and we don't begrudge anyone their decisions. It's your money, folks. Spend it wisely.
Can you pin that up as a stickie, or perhaps publish it in the next print magazine?