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By Tim Buckley Owen

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Forbes magazine has launched a European edition. Nothing particularly earth-shattering in that, but Steve Forbes’s launch remarks about the differing applicability of print and digital content – plus a new report from Gartner on the print-digital usage split – do raise issues that information managers struggling with tight budgets might want to consider.

Widely covered, Forbes’s launch not only represents the “first step towards a bigger presence in print in Europe” (as journalism.co.uk reports) but it also reflects the fact that, of Forbes’s 19 to 20 million unique online users a month, 1.5 to 2 million are in Europe. Press Gazette adds that roughly half the company’s turnover now comes from online operations, but it also reports comments by chairman Steve Forbes that print allows readers “to deal in stories in a much more thorough way”, and that it is impossible to have an online presence without a print presence.

paidContent reports Forbes as saying that the print and online platforms each have their own unique characteristics for conveying information. And Forbes’s chief revenue officer Kevin Gentzel clinches the issue with a survey that shows readers still turning to the printed word “to make better business decisions”.

Forbes’s observations are backed up by a recent survey by Gartner which finds that, although the time people spend reading on screen now almost equals the time they spend reading print, something more complicated than a straightforward substitution of digital for print media is taking place. “Content, publishing and media organisations should market the synergies of multichannel products to consumers, stressing the benefits of having both print and online access, rather than selling competing standalone products”, advises Gartner’s research director Nick Ingelbrecht.

Readability is part of it. Gartner’s survey showed that a huge majority of tablet users found reading them easier than or as easy as reading print, compared with almost half of laptop users who found on-screen reading harder than print. As Gartner points out, part of the answer is better tablet design – to make it “more competitive with paper”.

Meanwhile, though, it leaves cash-strapped information managers with a dilemma. One respondent to FreePint’s Economic Impact Report last autumn (outline and purchase details here) commented that the decrease in their budget paralleled the decrease in available print publications – specifically magazines – while another spoke of reducing their paper holdings by 50% and increasing their digital library as one means of coping with the changes they faced.

Whatever budgets information professionals find they have to play with in the future, substituting digital for print is likely to continue to play a significant part in their strategies. But, as the Forbes magazine launch suggests, decision makers’ reading habits may not make that substitution a particularly straightforward business.


 

About this item:



Tim is an information skills trainer and writer on the information industry with over 40 years' experience in the profession. His career has encompassed information management, writing, editing, training, government policy advice and corporate media & marketing.

Besides writing for FreePint, Tim runs courses for training providers and private clients on enquiry handling, abstracting & summarising, information packaging & presentation and information management. The sixth edition of his classic handbook Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time is published by Facet Publishing. You can find details of Tim's training services at www.buckleyowen.com.

Tim can also be reached at tim.buckleyowen@freepint.com

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