Online publications are the rage, and they are the future. They offer amazing value for the publisher, for the advertiser and for the reader. They also offer more than significant cost reduction for all three players.
BACKGROUND: I moved to Charlotte, N.C., in 1988. I brought as much of the Northeast with me as I possibly could. That included my subscription to The New Yorker. That magazine doesn’t just have the best articles in the world; it also has the best cartoons in the universe.

The magazine comes out 47 times a year. As you can imagine, for one reason or another, the magazine often did not get read. Sometimes there would be an unread pile of five or six. Guilt would set in.

Finally, after eight or nine years, I stopped my subscription. Occasionally I would pick up one in the airport gift shop and read it on the plane, and I continued to subscribe to the cartoon newsletter. It came to my email inbox with all the cartoons once a week. Then they changed it, and made you click onto their website in order to see the cartoons, so I quit reading it.

TODAY: This morning, I got a random email listing the contents of this week’s New Yorker magazine. I guess they had my address and decided to quasi-spam me. I bit.

I clicked on the link and found out that for $59.95 a year, I could get a digital subscription that included the current issue, a one-year subscription, and access to EVERY back issue since 1925. Plus they throw in The New Yorker cartoon calendar. I couldn’t resist.

I bought the online version, and from now on, I will only buy the online version of anything I want to subscribe to or read. Here’s why: I go on the airplane, I click the New Yorker icon on my iPad. Then I read this week’s issue, I look at this week’s cartoons, and I can go back and look at nearly 5,000 other back issues that are searchable by content. Holy magazine, Batman!

REALITY: Online cuts costs drastically. Online makes advertising more affordable. Online offers more options for the reader to connect with the advertiser. With print ads, the reader has to make a call or go online and search. With online ads, the reader is already online and only has to click the ad to find out more, subscribe to a blog, get a video, go to the advertiser’s website or buy something.

I’M ALL IN: Am I missing something here? Value, versatility and instant access. Take my ad on Selling Power magazine in April. It’s an ad I would have NEVER placed in the print version, an ad that is 50 percent less expensive than it was in the printed version, an ad that gives the magazine’s reader (my prospective customer) instant access to my offer.

FOOL’S GOLD: Five years ago, I had a talk with some Yellow Pages executives. I asked them how much longer the Yellow Pages would be printed, and when they would be switching to an online version. They smiled and proclaimed, “We’re not going to stop printing. The book is our cash cow.” And they changed the subject. In the last five years, the book has gone from a cash cow, to a cash calf, to a cash rump roast. And YP.com is more than 10 years late to the dance.

Please don’t read this the wrong way. Print is not dead. In fact, it will always be alive. Many people still don’t have the ability to get online publications. But the market is making a HUGE shift. There are “only” a few hundred million e-readers, tablets, and smartphones. The print impact felt by online availability is undeniable.

How much of an impact has your e-reader or tablet made on your reading habits? Has online reading brought you greater convenience and availability? What are your plans to make your products and services “online available”?

THINK ABOUT THIS: Every time you see people reading on a tablet, they could be reading about you!