Tom Dunmore of Stuff says print magazines have a future..."for the moment"
I was at an event at the Dana Centre last night to mark the launch of Jack Challoner's book "Desirable Future?: Consumer Electronics in Tomorrow's World". One of the panel was Tom Dunmore, editor of the UK edition of Stuff magazine.
Part of the format of the evening involved breaking into small discussion groups, and I had a chance to ask Tom, how, as a publication talking about new technology, he saw their position in an industry seemingly staring into the digital abyss.
He defended the concept of paper, suggesting that if we had grown up in a world just of screens, the permanence and portability of paper would make it a cool invention. He admitted he tended to get his information online, but he was sure there was a future for magazines - "for the moment" - as they provide a "sit-back" experience which digital can not yet emulate.
I think this is something that the news industry really needs to begin to take on board, that the print medium is increasingly suited to "sit-back" features, opinions and analysis, but the page count devoted to simply printing out yesterday's online news may need to be reduced.
Tom seemed to see good potential in devices like the Sony eReader, and thought particularly the introduction of flexible electronic ink screens might have a big impact on print publishing.
Another person asked if he thought his audience would just migrate online. He admitted that their print sales had dropped 3-4% this year, and thought that any publisher with those figures at the end of the year would be "pretty happy". However, he also said that their website had allowed them to reach a whole new strata of people who would never have bought the magazine.
Tom also made me feel a little bit old when he started talking about their retro gadget profiles, and, faced with a youthful audience, said: "I don't know if you've heard of a thing called the ZX Spectrum..."