Print's not dead - it's regenerating

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

During one of my lecturing sessions at City, University of London last week, I made the point that just because you’re most associated with digital, doesn’t mean you don’t – and can’t – love print, too.

That’s certainly the case for me. My first love was print, and two decades ago, my major goal was to be a print magazine editor by the time I was 30 (a goal I only missed by a year or so). There’s no doubt that the advent and growth of the web has changed how I perceive print. More than that, it’s changed how I consume print. About 10 years ago, print started a precipitous decline in my life, one that was only hastened by the iPad and the Kindle.

It’s rare that I pick up a printed book or newspaper these days. But I’m buying more magazines than I ever have – they’re just better and more expensive.

In that sense, I’m an addict. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is my dealer:

The Magculture shop on St John Street, London

The Magculture shop seen above sits just down the road from City – which, in its journalism department, probably has one of the greatest concentrations of print enthusiasts left in the country. And it’s chock full of the sort of magazines I actually like. Big. Thick. Printed on good quality stock. Limited adverts. Superb design. Sticker shock prices.



Here’s my theory about the long-term future of print: it’s going to turn into theatre.

Film and TV and YouTube have progressively relegated theatre from a mainstream entertainment form to one that’s much more specialised. In essence, theatre has split into upmarket, expensive “occasion” shows – and cheap, experimental “theatre above a pub or in a warehouse” efforts. The rise of these specialist – almost, dare I say it, artisanal, magazines is a sign that the former is well on its way to coming true.(I believe the correct term is “independent magazines”, but I dislike using it, because of bad school memories of “indie label” record snobs.)

Aggressively niche – and aggressively priced

Many of these magazines are aggressively niche compared to the mainstream titles you see lining the walls of WHSmiths. I have two devoted to artisan coffee culture within easy reach of me right now. One of my absolute favourites is a magazine devoted to online culture:

Offscreen Mag

Yes, that’s a print magazine about digital. How can you not love that?

Like so many of its ilk, it’s not full of adverts – it has a handful of “supporters” who get a section in the middle – and it costs around £10, which is double – or more – most high street titles. But for that money, you get better design, better photography and an all-round excellent experience.

This is the Doctor Who theory of print – it’s not dead, it’s just regenerating. And much like the new series of Doctor Who that came back in the mid-2000s, it has much higher production values than its predecessor.

Magazines and magazines and magazines

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about some of my favourite artisanal magazines, and the reason I like them. But for now, it’s always worth remembering that being digitally-focused doesn’t mean you can’t love print, any more than beings a TV fan means you have to shut film and theatre.

It’s very rare that a new medium will kill old media. But it almost always changes them.

indie magazinesmag culturemagazinesprintprint is dead

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.