It may come as a surprise in this digital age, but about 52% of British adults still read printed magazines. And it’s not a generational thing either as a reported seven out of 10 millennials read printed magazines for leisure and entertainment.
So, in an age when digital screens dominate, and we seemingly have all the information and imagery we could ever possibly want or need to see at our fingertips, why are so many of us still choosing to read magazines in their printed form?
1. We Find Magazines Trustworthy
Trust appears to be an important factor, particularly with regard to topical news magazines. In a world where ‘fake news’ appears to be ever more prevalent, magazines are considered a trusted source of information. The Ofcom News Consumption Survey found that “when rated on measures such as quality, accuracy, trustworthiness and impartiality, magazines continue to perform better than other platforms.”
2. Magazines Give Us Time To Focus Without Distraction
When we read a magazine, 58% of us will be fully engaged with what we are reading or looking at in the magazine. That compares with just 35% of us who will be fully focused when reading online, when we’re much more likely to be multitasking or being lured into a rabbit warren of links that take us away from what we originally had set out to read.
A printed magazine, on the other hand, has been carefully and skilfully edited and designed, distilling the most interesting and useful information for us and guiding us through it in a focused and linear fashion. Journalist Ferris Jabr describes magazines as “offering a generous canvas for words and images, which means more opportunities for visual landmarks that help people establish a sense of progress in a text and remember where in the publication they read something”. Of course, we can bookmark the pages of a digital magazine, but how many of us actually will go back and look at that bookmark – we’re usually too busy being side-tracked by a whole plethora of links to yet more information!
3. Magazines Engage Our Senses
The feel and weight of the magazine in your hands, the sound of the crisp crackle of the paper as the page turns, the smell of ink on paper, the visual pleasure of the design with text and photography juxtaposed – magazines offer a multi-dimensional experience, which according to an article in The Psychologist, can improve memory and depth of understanding.
Research conducted by Psychologist Kate Garland suggests print is more effective than digital in helping us achieve the depth of understanding: ‘What we found was that people on paper started to “know” the material more quickly over the passage of time. It took longer and [required] more repeated testing to get into that knowing state [with the computer reading…]’.
4. Magazines Create A Learning Mindset
Psychological studies also suggest that readers approach the printed word with more of a learning mindset than they might on a screen version. Ferris Jabr believes that the features of a magazine ‘make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text. In contrast, most screens, e-readers, smartphones and tablets interfere with intuitive navigation of a text and inhibit people from mapping the journey in their minds.’
5. Printed Magazines Can Serve Many Functions
As a physical object, a magazine is something we can engage with on many levels. Dr Matt Hayler, a senior lecturer in contemporary literature and digital cultures at the University of Birmingham, says, ‘A magazine is something you can cut things out from, a magazine is something you’re happy to leave on a train or doctor’s office, you’ll use it as a coaster or fly swatter… there’s something very functional about a magazine’.
6. Printed Magazines Encourage Us To Spend Time Away From Our Screens
When we choose to pick up and read a printed magazine, we are giving ourselves permission to take some time away from our digital screens, which increasingly seem to dominate our lives inside and outside of work. We might put the kettle on, make a cup of tea, and sit down in a favourite chair for half an hour, quietly reading an article or flicking through pages, possibly forgetting, momentarily, that the distractions of the digital world even exist.