Posted by: nickgerlich | March 27, 2008

Looks Good On Paper

One by one, the bastions of the old economy are falling, like trees felled by a chainsaw-wielding logger. The digital economy is upon us, and there is no turning back. Like it or not, Bob Dylan continues to haunt us with his refrain of change.

Last night I picked up the Dead Tree edition of CCM Magazine, a mag I have read off and on for 25 years. Having been involved in the performance of music in the church since I was a young adult, I often read CCM to stay up on the genre.

CCM MagazineBut I was somewhat taken aback to read in the opening column that April’s issue would be their last. Well, not exactly…just their last paper issue. It’s all going online now.

And the owls in Oregon all heaved a big sigh of relief.

Upon further reflection, I am not all that surprised to read of the demise of the hard copy edition of this magazine. It is a trend that is about to gain traction, first among the niche publications, and then later on by the mainstream publications. While nearly every magazine already has an online component, I think we will continue to see more and more opting to be online-only.

Face it. It’s much cheaper to be online-only. There’s no postage, no paper, no printing expense, no tricky page layouts or word limits. And online mags can be updated daily, not monthly. The lag time from news event to dissemination can be reduced to almost zero, allowing publishers to turn on a dime.

Media trailblazers like Salon have been in the online-only realm from their inception. It is the old-economy players who are having to play catch-up. In fact, it’s almost the magazine equivalent of Barnes & Noble closing its BAM stores in favor of just selling online, just like Amazon, its chief competitor.

The revenue model for an online publication is different from that of paper magazines. The most common model is to rely exclusively on advertising (which can be tracked with analytics software to determine effectiveness). Some also employ subscription models, or a hybrid, charging for premium content access (CCM is going the ad-only route).

The elimination of paper-based publications also lends credence to the idea of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, with which one can subscribe to magazines that are beamed wirelessly to the device. Portability is a feature for which a growing number of consumers are willing to ante up some bucks (as evidenced by the Kindle continuing to be out-of-stock).

Still, I would be remiss to not say that I mourn the loss of CCM. I often save magazines for a year or so after publication, referring to them occasionally much like I would a book. And while I know I can still do the same online, there is something to be said for holding the magazine, lying on the couch and reading it, or drifting off to sleep with it propped up on my chest.

Because the alternative is to spend even more time staring at my computer monitor, or going to bed with a digital mistress named Kindle. And neither of those sound all that appealing right now.

Dr “Farewell My Friend” Gerlich

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