Are magazines and newspapers still relevant?

Like many of you, I’ve been struggling to anticipate and react to changing landscape of reading.

Students at my school prefer to read for fun in print but prefer to research digitally. Our adult community prefers the opposite. Since we are a boarding school located in a location without a strong public library system, we have worked hard to provide access to both print and digital books.  This has meant a focus on collecting eBooks and audiobooks that we know will appeal to our adult community with some student overlap, and collecting lots of YA in print.

This is all well and good for our book collection, but what does this changing landscape mean for magazines?

When I asked the rest of the staff to come up with a list of five they’d seen used, some found it difficult to get to five. I think that is very telling. Though we currently have 91 print magazines, only a handful get used on a regular basis.

Though the magazines look nice and we have purpose-built shelves for them, should we still spend a lot of our budget on them? We’ve been wrestling with this question over the past week or so and here are some steps we are taking:

  • As a staff we sat down and looked at the subscriptions and their usage. We came up with quite a few to stop receiving.
  • We cross-referenced our EBSCO subscription price with other vendors and found a way to save a significant amount
  • We’ve developed a list of magazines that we will promote in different ways and another list of those that might be of interest in the dorms.

But all of this still feels like a stop-gap on the way to the inevitable downfall of print magazines in our community.  Are you experiencing the same usage downturn? Do you have particular magazines that students love to read? How do you promote magazines in your library?

15 thoughts on “Are magazines and newspapers still relevant?

  1. I tried everything to get my middle and high school students to use our print periodicals and they didn’t move at all. Two years ago I ended up canceling every magazine subscription and moved our print + digital newspaper subscriptions to digital only. The students haven’t noticed, and only two people have complained. (The art teacher who liked to cut them up for projects and a 70-year-old rather cranky substitute teacher)

      • Sorry, we didn’t have digital magazines, just newspaper access. I don’t have usage statistics from the online newspapers, but I hear they’re being used at least a bit, especially by speech & debate.

  2. This is something I have been pondering as well. Year before last I got rid of the back issues we had for our magazines, as no one was using them (except the art teachers, as you said!). Now I am wondering what to do about the print issues we receive, and which not very many students or faculty read. I have moved our magazine display shelves to our lobby-ish area, and have a couple of comfy reading chairs there, and they look nice, but that hasn’t increased use very much.
    I, too, am wondering about how best to handle subscriptions to the ones I decide to keep. Right now we use WT Cox as our subscription aggregator, but most of our magazines could be gotten much more cheaply either through a direct subscription or through someplace like Amazon (ugh) or the magazine store. Has anyone shifted away from subscription aggregators to individual subscriptions, and has that played a part in any decisions to keep magazines around?

    • We are going to use Amazon for most of our subscriptions (ick) and will go directly to the company for those that are not available through Amazon. The method in which we are able to subscribe hasn’t affected our decision making at all – at least not for the first and second round of cuts!

  3. We no longer get the local newspaper and have cut way back on our print magazines. We’ve moved them to a shelf right next to the circulation desk and they have gotten more notice there, though still not tons. Our news magazines like Time get used when a few of our classes do projects on global issues. We moved most of our subscriptions to Amazon this year. I get Ebsco emails about Flipster all the time and wonder if that would be worthwhile for our popular reading magazines. You’d have to do a lot of PR to make sure students knew it was available.

  4. In the Lower School the kids starting in 2nd Grade love our magazines and read them til they are tattered, at which time they are offered to classroom teachers for class projects for writing and research.
    We have cut back on the magazines we used to get that were more “scholarly.” (Faces, Muse) if you can use that term in a Lower School library. We originally subscribed for teachers to use, but they are not checking them out, and kids want more flash, less text.
    I have given up the local paper in print and only read it digitally.
    I noticed that School Library Journal seems to be on the way out, publishing quarterly and no longer supporting a digital edition.
    We are definitely between two worlds right now. We live in interesting times!

  5. We’ve cut back to just a few magazines. Surfer’s Journal, a gorgeous magazine with great articles even for people like me who don’t surf, has an audience with my surf crowd. Wired and Fast Company have a niche audience among our IB ITGS (Information Technology in a Global Society) course kids. Interestingly, the Economist is the only magazine that has students come to the desk and ask, “Has the new Economist come in yet?” I think this is because it gets talked about by one of our social studies teachers and his history/social studies fans look for it and read it even though it isn’t an assigned task.

    When we were deciding on how to cut our subscriptions significantly I started putting a little piece of tape across the pages of the magazines. When we checked back, if the tape had been broken we knew it had been browsed/read. If the tape was still intact, it hadn’t been touched. Anything that wasn’t touched for a few weeks got cancelled.

  6. Thank you for this – so timely and relevant. We went from 40+ to 12 when we moved into a new space (with new cabinet) 3 years ago. We’ll likely cut a few more, but I’m hoping a new display unit (free-standing, tall & narrow) will increase awareness. Funnily enough, leaving the nice ‘display rack’ shelf cover up has already improved usage! We never could satisfactorily educate people to lift it up for back issues 🙂
    Is anyone using and liking Flipster? It’s expensive but I’m curious….

  7. We no longer get print magazines (a low usage decision made by my predecessor, which seemed on target) but we get three print newspapers: our local paper (my personal copy that I bring to school), the New York Time and the Wall Street Journal. Anyone can browse/them here, and at the end of each day, they go in a stack and anyone can take them home. When the stacks get too high, I email the art department or recycle them.

    I am pleased to say there is daily perusal, often while waiting for a friend. One teacher comes through specifically to glance over the headlines. Two regulars come by to pick up past papers. Not a lot of use, but worth the subscription cost, at least for now.

    I prefer a print option, because I like to read the paper with breakfast, and I don’t like to be on my device that early. I bring my daily paper to school most days, and the school pays for the other two subscriptions. Thanks for a interesting discussion!

  8. We still subscribe to about 90 print magazines and the local newspaper, which is in fast decline, as well as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Sunday New York Times. One teacher comes in daily to read the WSJ, but the others are not heavily used. We also have sixteen titles in Flipster, which is popular among a few teachers and gets some student use, although it’s hard to promote. We are a school for boys, who tend to be visually oriented, and I still feel that displaying print publications encourages reading. Out of sight, out of mind; it’s much less likely, even for me as an avid reader, to seek out pleasure reading materials online–I look at a screen too much as it is. For research, digital is great.

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