Are You Maximizing The “Prestige of Print”?

A few months ago, I was chatting with a young alum about a story I had been asked to write about her. She asked where the piece was going to appear, and I explained that it would be both online and in the print magazine.

She got very excited. “Oh, I didn’t know it was going to be real, too!” she said, asking me to mail her a copy once it was published.

More valuable than you think.

On the face of it, it was a strange comment. Yet I knew immediately what she meant. You probably do, too.

Seeing a story in a print magazine — a beautiful physical object — felt more “real” than the exact same story online. Even if that online story had the potential to reach a larger group of people. Even if it could be shared with her friends and family with the click of a link.

I’ve always thought that print offers something that digital can’t, but I’m not sure I fully grasped the contrast until I read that the New York brand published a new story online every six minutes. (Note that grim dek that accompanies it: “…and ‘the editing process is zero, pretty much.’ “)

In the time it took the outlet to publish a single print publication, more than 3,000 stories were published online.

The print publication, by contrast, includes an average of just 30 stories in each issue. In other words, just 1 percent of its stories made it to print.

The prestige of print

You might not have the same ratio of print stories to online stories at your institution, but it’s probably directionally similar. Maybe your institution has 10 or 20 or 50 times as many stories online as in print.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that we unconsciously value the stories in print publications more than online ones.

If you’re going to take the trouble to print a tiny percent of the stories your institution produces, people will value that content differently. They will see those stories as more prestigious than the significantly greater amount of content that people can find on your website.

The internet feels infinite. Anyone can post almost anything at any time.

But you can’t put everything in a print magazine. You have to make judgments. You have to decide what is worth creating, editing, designing, printing, and mailing.

Not everything is going to make the cut.

Think about the content you’re putting in your magazine right now. Are you using that space wisely? How could you make it even better?