I spend so much time reading text on a screen these days that it's been both a novelty and a pleasure to have a couple of decent length train journeys this weekend to give my eyes a break and do some old-school magazine reading. After some prevaricating in Smiths, prompted by the bewildering array of titles now on offer (Media UK lists 1,956), I plumped for Wired, EDGE, T3 and Retro Gamer with my subscription copy of Empire tucked away in my bag for good measure. The total cover price? £21.88 (an average of £4.38 per title).
What struck me about this (apart from how readily I seem to part with money at train stations) is how much of the content I am paying for in dead-tree format is available for free on the net. (all the Wired articles, all the EDGE and Empire reviews, much of T3's news and features). And I'm seemingly not the only one shelling out in this way. According to a recent PPA Marketing overview, consumer expenditure on magazines has increased by almost 50% in the decade since the dawn of the internet (11% in real terms) with more of 'the internet generation' (whatever that means) reading consumer magazines than any other age group.
So, why do we do it and will this behaviour change once high-speed wireless internet access becomes ubiquitous and eMagazine readers become affordable (or, more likely, their functionality starts being adequately replicated on entry-level mobile phones / other multi-function devices)? I suspect it's a mixture of habit, convenience and a well-established relationship with the physical product which keeps us buying and which wireless devices and electronic ink cannot yet match and may never totally supplant. I also wonder if there's something reassuringly finite about a magazine in this era of unlimited information; a bound and curated volume of stuff that an editorial team has deemed worthy of my attention versus an increasingly unwieldy feedreader with hundreds of unread items...
Do you still buy magazines which offer some or all of the same content online for free? If so, why?