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Reader Wants Print, not Links

How do the readers of Chip Design – mostly engineers if one believes the polls – prefer to receive editorial content? Print or Online? This question continues to vex both publishers and advertisers/sponsors alike.

While wrestling with the serious issue of supporting both print and online media, it’s easy for an editor to lose sight of the basics – or so it may seem to the readers. That’s why I thought the follow email exchange between myself and one reader (Jonah) might be instructive and even entertaining.John

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John. To learn about our industry I mostly use search engines and occasionally hit the front page of eetimes.com.

The ONLY reason that I still subscribe to print editions of magazines is so that I can read different perspectives on our industry from trains, planes, and bed (i.e. places without internet access). When you publish incomplete articles in the print edition of Chip Design Magazine terminated with a web address, I am unlikely to actually go to that web address and I am likely to become frustrated with your publication.

Please only publish complete articles in your print edition or I will demote your print editions to junk status in my paper inbox. Cynically, I doubt that this threat bothers you because as long as you know my address you can charge advertisers based on a higher circulation tally.

~Jonah

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Hi Jonah. You’ve touched on a thorny issue, one for which I am in total agreement as a reader. Why would anyone run an incomplete article in print? One of the values of print – as you note – is to read complete articles when you are beyond the tenuous reach of a wireless connection.

Still, as an editor, the temptations are great. Here are some of the reasons:
1) Attempt to increase the viewership of your website. Yes, this is a poor reason, but “eyeballs” are measurable on the website whereas they are harder to count in print.
2) Shortening articles mean that you can run more pieces, albeit incomplete, in print. With many of my competitions going out of business or serious scaling back their coverage (and removing their print pubs), I’ve been bombarded with contributed pieces – too many to run.
3) Sometimes the demands of production – balancing editorial with advertising pages – requires that articles be shortened. It’s easy for an editor to shorten a piece by merely putting the overrun text online. It takes more work to actually edit a piece and make judicious cuts throughout the article, as we used to do in the old days.

Having said all that, I do agree that running incomplete articles further degrades the value of print. The seeming demise of print is a depressing topic among editors, since most of us dearly love the textual experience of print. But if we want to stay in business, we can not afford to be sentimental.

Nevertheless, I will do my best to run only complete articles in print, even if it requires more work on the part of myself and my staff. That is the right thing to do.

As to your “cynical” comment, let me say this: As a writer, I don’t want to lose readers. You might call it an ego thing, but the reason that I left engineering to become a writer was because I had something to say about the complexities of technology. So I take seriously all legitimate criticisms from my audience.

Didn’t mean to be quite so lengthy in my response, but you hit a nerve. :)    Cheers. — John

BTW: I’d like to run your post and my response on my blog. Believe the readers will find it very interesting. I’ll list your post as “anon,” unless you instruct me otherwise. — John

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John,

Thanks for considering my comments and writing such a thorough reply. You are welcome to publish my comments anonymously or with my name. Please only publish if it will not take page space away from a technical article. ;)

I understand the dilemma of increasing cost and shrinking revenue for publications. It’s a shame and I just wish that I knew a solution.

~Jonah

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