It’s a new media cliché by now that “Print is Dead”. The internet offers faster delivery of information on demand, anywhere you are. News arrives directly into your pocket. It updates in real time and it’s interactive. These are all advantages to digital, taken at face value. And yet, we’re seeking to launch a print magazine. Why?
It’s one of the more common questions we get. Why a physical magazine? Why not just do an eBook or a digital PDF version of a magazine? There are advantages to digital, to be sure. The costs relating to physical production and distribution—the printing and shipping, including international shipping—is the largest chunk of expense in a project like this. Avoiding those costs would cut the budget nearly in half. It’s attractive enough of an option that it has always existed as a potential plan B. But there are some real advantages to print, and good reasons that it’s stuck around.
There are a myriad of articles available that discuss the drawbacks of new media as a news or information delivery platform. For those who are interested, the Columbia Journalism Review has a good article about the trouble with new media, and the resurgence of print. (Of course it doesn’t escape me that this article is written and presented digitally, and runs into many of the same issues. Long form journalism online isn’t a popular format. We appreciate it if you read this far.)
For the reasons outlined in the article above, print is still a strong form of media. Yet even more generally, there has been a resurgence of physicality across all types of art. The music industry is famously seeing record numbers of the sales of vinyl records every year, even as the overall percentage of sales of physical music media plummets. Cottage industries of handmade goods are thriving on places like Etsy, and of course the furry fandom is filled with examples of custom art, fursuits, and other merchandise.
As convenient as the internet is for so many things—including publishing—there is still a real desire for tangible goods. The more of our media we consume online, the greater the desire for a physical connection to that media in the real world. Vinyl records aren’t an improvement on the listening experience, per se. Rather they’re a physical connection to the music. They are a work of art, complimentary to the music which might only otherwise exist in a digital space.
But there’s a flip side to this which is important to the furry fandom specifically: furries are an internet subculture. While it may not have started this way in the very early days, the furry fandom owes its continued existence to the internet. It grows, thrives, and expresses its creativity almost entirely online. While traditional artwork exists physically, and is only shared online once it has been digitized, furry artwork by comparison almost always starts off as digital, and only exists physically if someone takes the time to print it out. When it is done traditionally, it must be scanned so it can be shared online with all the rest. Furry art is one of the first, and quite possibly the largest art movement to exist primarily as new media.
This is why we believe a print magazine is so important. There’s nothing wrong with taking digital media, curating it, and re-presenting it digitally. But the real goal here is to move more of that art out of its digital native space into the physical world. The desire is there in the culture at large to have a physical connection to our digital lives. We’d love the opportunity to move some of this artistic expression, discourse and context off the internet and onto the page.