Magazine subscriptions: Is print dead?

“The sensibility that print is cratering is just nuts.” So said Charles Townsend, CEO of Condé Nast last year at the Paley Center for Media (Audience Development magazine). This may seem like backward thinking to some who have placed their bets on the future dominance of digital publications, but the opinion of the head of the Condé Nast powerhouse shouldn’t be quickly dismissed.

Townsend continued: “There’s nothing in the way of growing these businesses, but you can’t do it without a really substantial digital presence. It’s really managing a brand as opposed to a magazine.” As most publishers have learned, publishing today is not a digital v. print proposition.

“The post recessionary moment is really the introduction of alternative platforms that takes the pressure off of the print business, but doesn’t replace the print business.” Facts, so far, have proved this out.

The Alliance for Audited Media recently reported that iPad subscriptions (replica editions) account for just 3.3% of overall circulation. And one third of that circulation comes from a gaming magazine (

Tablet subscriptions are growing, but slower than most publishers expected. The Wall Street Journal reported in January that most big publishers now expect digital subscriptions to represent about 10% of their total circulation by 2015.