Sunday Mailbag

January 23rd, 2011 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: What do you think of the problems that print publications are having these day? Do you think print is dying, and where do you think the publication industry goes from here?

A: The world of publishing is in a transition right now from print to digital media. Will print go away completely? No, I don’t think it will, but digital content is becoming more and more important and will continue to do so. I think that as hardware become more and more sophisticated and portable, more and more consumers will be looking to find their content on devices like the iPad and the evolution of gadgets like it. Things like newspapers and magazines are going to need to figure out how to get their content delivered digitally to consumers and, more importantly, figure out how to make money doing it.

Every generation or so there is a major media shift that is always heralded as the death knell for the “old way”. When TV came around everyone said radio was dead… that didn’t happen. Radio found it’s niche and is still viable. The introduction of VCRs was supposed to kill the movie business and damage TV when people could rent or own films that they’d watch at home at their own convenience. The movie business didn’t even blink. DVDs were supposed to do the same thing… didn’t happen. Now the internet is supposed to be the harninger of doom to TV, print media and everything else.

I see the internet as not being the enemy but another outlet for creative content. It’s all about figuring out how to deliver the material so consumers will be willing to pay for that convenient delivery, and providing the kind of content they’d be willing to pay for. For magazines, having a business model where the consumer pays a nominal amount for a subscription and their magazine is delivered to their portable device automatically without the need to go looking for it or to have to be actively online to read it. That really seems to me to be the key… passive delivery to a portable device that can allow the reader to consume the content anywhere regardless of internet accessibility. Revenues will be generated by a combination of the modest subscription fee and advertising within the digital magazine.

There will always be a demand for professional creative content, be it illustration, cartooning, writing, photography, etc. Eventually providers will figure out how to use the internet to deliver it and get compensated enough to pay professionals to create it.

Thanks to G Franks for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me your questions and I’ll try and answer them here!


  1. Patrick says:

    Well said, Tom!

  2. Mark Engblom says:

    “That really seems to me to be the key‚Äö√Ѭ∂ passive delivery to a portable device that can allow the reader to consume the content anywhere regardless of internet accessibility.”

    I completely agree. The problem they face, though, is the decade-plus that people enjoyed free internet access to all manner of publications (such as online versions of newspapers and magazines). It’s tough to now convince people that what they consumed for free is now worth real money. It can be done, and dandling the carrot of high quality content will be the enticement….but wow. It will be a long, uphill struggle…especially with so much low-quality garbage clamoring for the same consumer e-buck!

    One thing’s for sure: Whatever we THINK is going to happen…probably won’t (as your post made thoroughly clear).

  3. julio cesar naranjo says:

    Hi Tom its quite interesting how things change and every form of advertising evolves in easier ways to get to the consumers, and like everything else, we have to adapt to transitions. Take care.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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