Do People Still Read Magazines?

Have you flipped through the pages of a print magazine recently? If so, you’re in good company. According to the News Media Alliance, 88% of U.S. adults have read a magazine in the last six months, including 88% of adults aged 18-26.

Cards on the table: We’re pro print. Probably not surprising, given we’re a magazine publisher. So, we’re happy to answer the question in the headline right up front. Yes, people still read magazines. 

In this post, we will dig deeper into who is reading magazines, get to the heart of why we’re still a print-loving society (even amid endless digital news and entertainment options) and take a closer look at the value of association magazines.  

The Reports of Print’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

From the telegraph to radio and from television to the internet, with each new leap forward in technology, there are op-eds aplenty predicting the demise of print. Yet, time and again, these predictions have proven premature. 

And while the print industry has ebbed (the U.S. newspaper industry shrunk by about $4.5 billion between 2011 and 2018) and frequently changed, print seems to find a way to reinvent and endear itself anew with each new generation. 

Gen Z <3 Print

Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) is the first generation to grow up in a totally digital world. They spend an average of 10.6 hours per day engaging with online content — that’s nearly two hours more than their millennial counterparts. 

It might be surprising, then, to learn that 92% prefer print books to digital books, and the average Gen Zer will still read magazines for about an hour every week, according to Folio.

This generation is so enamored with print that it prompted Reuters to ask in a recent article: “If millennials killed print, will Gen Z revive it?”

“Young people are doing everything digitally — and it’s freaking exhausting,” says Paula Felps, an m3Magazines editor. “There is a connection readers get with print that they can’t get from a screen.” 

Gen Z’s appetite for print bodes well for the future of the medium — especially if publishers can capture the hearts, minds and eyes of the generation. 

Why Magazines (Still) Matter

When the vast majority of us are spending more than six hours per day online, and all the world’s information is just a few taps away, why do people still read and enjoy print magazines? There are many reasons. Here are just a few: 

  1. The Experience. The weight and feel of a magazine in your hands, the sound of the pages turning and even the smell of the paper are things that can’t be replicated online. Psychologically speaking, reading paper magazines fosters a profound connection with the content and elicits strong emotional responses due to its heightened sensory involvement. 
  1. The Trustworthiness. More than 70% of people surveyed in a recent Kantar study reported print magazines are the most trusted news source. And it’s not only readers who find magazines more trustworthy. According to the International News Media Association’s Power of Print Advertising Report, “Print advertising is still as relevant for businesses as digital; it satisfies the senses, creates a sense of trust and stability, and has proven its worth — time and again in producing outstanding ROI.”
  1. The Information Retention. Studies have shown we read faster, skim more and retain less when reading online content as compared to printed materials. Research also shows that digital reading can dilute the content mapping function that happens when we read, making it harder to recall material we’ve just read. 
  1. The Niche Appeal. While the market size of the magazine and periodical publishing industry in the U.S. has declined an average of 0.7% per year between 2017 and 2022, there seems to be an appetite on the rise for niche magazines that cater to very specific audiences — like cat lovers or owners of specific dog breeds. In 2018, the New York Times reported on an uptick in hyper-specific food-related publications coming from young professionals. 
  1. The Growing Commercial Value. Magazine ads are powerful, and advertisers know it. According to the News/Media Alliance, 76% of magazine readers take action based on seeing an ad in a print publication — making magazines more likely to lead to sales than other forms of media. 

Digital Publishing: Friend, Not Foe

It’s easy to imagine digital vs. print as an either-or proposition. It’s not. Savvy associations understand the value each brings to their members and embrace a combination of digital and print messaging. 

“In tandem with the printed magazine, online or downloadable digital editions, social media, websites and blogs can all serve to expand the association’s communication ecosystem and create stronger connections with members.” — Ben Carpenter, m3Magazines director of print strategy.

Whether you opt to produce a digital version of the magazine, promote your content via social media and email newsletters, or add to print content with a robust blog strategy, digital channels can support your magazine while driving interest and engaging members in new and accessible ways. 

Keep Reading: The Future of Association Magazine Publishing

The Association Magazine Is Alive and Well

Association magazines remain a widely beloved member benefit. By its nature, your association magazine hits on exactly what your members (and magazine readers) are looking for: relevant, interesting content that feels personal. 

Your magazine is also a valuable tool for conveying important association and industry information, building community and reinforcing your brand. If you’re looking for ways to get the most out of your association magazine, download our free association guide, Supercharge Your Magazine to Delight Members, or reach out any time. Our association magazine experts are here to help. 

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