John Dunn, publisher of Mekeelís and Stamps magazine, is considering moving away from a printed publication all together and going with an online version only. Unless youíve been living under a rock, many publications both philatelic and non-philatelic, now offer online versions of their content. In the philatelic world, this is the first publication Iíve heard of that may no longer offer a printed copy.
Itís a bit of a gamble. How many subscribers will leave if they canít have a printed copy? Most people have access to a computer these days, either at home or at the local library. However, not everyone has a computer yet. Those readers donít have an option.
But I also see Johnís side. With the spiraling cost of paper, postage rate increases, finding reliable printers, delivery problems by the USPS Ė there are a series of headaches in dealing with a printed publication. To keep up with costs, the subscription rates will be so high, no one will buy a subscription. And with the present day economy, you canít attract enough advertising dollars to make it profitable.
On a side note, here is something you may not be aware of. Publications like Mekeelís and Stamps, Linnís Stamp News, and even the American Philatelist, all derive most of their revenue from advertising. Reader subscriptions bring in needed revenue, but itís the advertising dollars that pay for most of the publication. Without advertisers, subscription rates would skyrocket if you had to pay for the full cost of producing such a publication. I bet most stamp collectors donít know that. Advertising is what pays the bills and keeps the lights on, not reader subscriptions.
Will printed publications go away completely? Iím not sure if they will completely go away, but I see them being significantly reduced in the not-too-distant future. Why?
Costs are soaring. A case in point, I subscribe to the daily newspaper from Somerset, PA where I grew up. I used to get the printed version in the mail and it cost around $175 per year. A couple years ago, the subscription price increased to over $300. I switched to the online version. Now I get news the same day. USPS delivery of the paper arrived the next day, or sometimes two or more days later (like around holidays when second class mail is low priority). I save money too. The online version costs under $100 per year.
There will always be a segment of society that likes to hold a printed copy. For that reason, I think printed versions will always be available. I think that may change too. I envision a day where publications will only be available online. If you want a printed copy, youíll go to a company that offers printing services. Using their computers, youíll download the book, publication, etc. that youíre interested in. Youíll specify some options for printing like, ďDo you want a hard bound or soft bound cover for your book?Ē Or, ďDo you want it printed in color or just black and white?Ē They will have machines that print your item according to your specifications for a small fee. In other words, a personalized printing business.
This is going to be especially true for things like philatelic publications. Print rates for books are typically a few hundred copies. A general interest philatelic book may print a few thousand copies. I donít know of any philatelic books that have been printed by the millions.
Are online only versions of publications coming? It may be sooner than you think. Perhaps Mekeelís and Stamps is the first experiment in that direction. I wish John and Elaine all of the success in the world because I am a subscriber to both Mekeelís and Stamps along with their US Stamp News publications. I enjoy their magazines very much. John and Elaine are two wonderful people and strong supporters of the hobby.