Some publishers are putting more effort toward getting subscribers to ask for digital editions rather than print. “This continued and relentless increase in costs,” Cohen said, “will make more and more publications marginal and drive them out of the print format.”
Cohen was quick to add that he doesn't see print going away. “But publishers will need to redefine what a magazine is and how print supports their Web efforts,” he said. “It has evolved into a multichannel approach that requires publishers to interact with their readers in many ways, whether via print or electronic.”
Some publishers are excited about the prospect of electronic paper, which is a foldable or rollable screen that can display information in a much larger, design-friendly area than current mobile devices. It's still under development by several companies and isn't likely to be distributed to a mass audience for a few years, but some already see it as a potential game changer.
“I believe e-paper offers a tremendous opportunity to publishers, especially newspapers, if it is a truly mobile product that is updated on the fly,” Cohen said. “Great content that matches readers' needs is the key, no matter how it is physically delivered.”
Myers said e-paper may prove an excellent solution for publishers' paper problem. “We are increasing digital subscribers ... but for the most part I don't see this as where the publishing industry will be five years from now. E-paper may be the solution we are all waiting for,” she said.
Chisholm said paper mills aren't concerned about e-paper. “They're just trying to stay in business,” he said. “The point is that we're selling a product that is annually decreasing in demand. We can't stop it.”
For the time being, he recommends that publishers get into long-term relationships with mills so they have guaranteed supply. “But I would hold their feet to the fire to make sure the price is continually competitive,” he said. M