Paper Or Plastic: A Case For Print And Digital Magazines

by Jenn (eating bender) on April 14, 2011

Thank you all for the sweet comments on my Summit Series post. It truly was an experience that made me think long and hard about my purpose in life, as dramatic as that sounds. I am delighted that some of you were as inspired as I was!

Today I want to talk about my glossy habit.

I have been a subscriber to the “Big Five” – or what I consider to be the biggest – health and fitness magazines since I was a freshman in college.

Many people may view this as a waste of money. That the topics, for the most part, are the same in every publication every month and are recycled with new information – but ultimately presented in the same way – every year.

I won’t deny that there have been occasions where I’ve thought about narrowing it down to just one or two, but I always find myself coming to the same conclusion – there is something valuable about having each of them in print. It would be impossible for me to choose.

That said, I knew there were others who would disagree, so I took to Twitter and Facebook and received some very thought provoking responses:

I think the arguments for going paperless and finding a more personal connection with bloggers are particularly meaningful in this discussion. I also agree with Stephanie’s point that fitness sites are a great way to reputably validate any opinions we as bloggers put out there.

Then it hit me that I was looking online to find answers to an offline question. It really drove home the notion of how easy it is to connect with a wider group of people instantly through the Internet.

For the most part, I live my life in a digital world. I run a digital company, spend a large portion of my day on Facebook and Twitter and email and every other online professional or social platform. I should therefore be able to obtain the information I’m looking for in these magazines through online channels and be happy. The print form of magazines should no longer be relevant for me…right?

Well call me crazy, but I think the real reasoning behind all of this is because in an increasingly paperless world, I actually enjoy being able to hold written content that isn’t inside something made of metal or hard plastic.

I enjoy being able to bring magazines with me to the gym and not worry if I slobber them with sweat.

I enjoy being able to rip out pages and post them somewhere as a motivational reminder.

I enjoy being able to read one of my closest friend’s work in its most original form.

These are just some of the reasons why I am still a print subscriber, six years later.

That said, the fact that I turned to the Internet to discover this answer is important to me. It helped me realize that I truly enjoy the fact that these magazines, once limited in reach only to mailing addresses, can now impact people all over the world.

I am grateful for the fact that magazines have embraced the digital arena. Today Cristin from SELF Magazine wrote her final post on Eat Like Me. While I am excited for her future, I found myself thinking about the past.

As you may know, Cristin is who inspired me to write a blog in the first place. Without her and SELF’s decision to allow blogging on their site, I may have never even started this three-year journey. I have them both to thank for bringing me one giant step into the digital world.

Last week, I had the opportunity to be featured on FITNESS Magazine’s “The Fit Stop.”


The jubilation I felt when I saw my name on their website is hard to put into words. None of that would have been possible if magazines were still limited to their print editions.

My point in all of this is that in the question of paper vs. plastic (print vs. online), I believe personally that the answer is a little bit of both – and my reasoning is based both on aesthetics and convenience.

The paper magazine should not go away. I will still be a loyal subscriber for years to come, if they’ll let me. The ability to touch the pages and save particularly meaningful stories (rather than digitally archiving them) is still too important.

But I am glad that some content is also available online. Magazines are still one of my ultimate authorities because they were willing to come out from behind the curtain of a New York office and be more authentic with their readers through social platforms, staff blogging and personalized storytelling, while still maintaining journalistic integrity through expert opinions and sources (although I will be the first to concede that no publication is perfectly unbiased). I love that I can easily share this information with friends, family and blog readers through a simple link or click of a button.

Do I think bloggers reach people on a more personal level overall? Absolutely.

But there is still something to be said for the magazine and I look forward to watching them continue to evolve with the times. I would love to hear your opinions on this, too!

Do you still read health and fitness magazines? Why or why not? And if yes, do you read them in print or prefer to utilize their digital platforms instead?

I’m excited to hear what you have to say!


1 Anna April 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Great post! And congrats on your mention on the Fitness website.

I came across a really great magazine industry ad in Rolling Stone that pointed out how when you read a magazine, you basically are giving the content your undivided attention. The same cannot be said for online content, where the tendency is to click through links and jump around from window to window. That’s pretty powerful! We don’t see that too often in our multitasking, digital world. That being said, I’m a cheapskate and I’m more likely to read online instead of buying the paper verison.

To answer your question, I don’t read health or fitness magazines because a lot of content rubs me the wrong way. I actually really enjoy reading magazines that are completely out of my demographic, just to get a different perspective. Men’s mags like GQ, Esquire, mommy mags, wedding mags, weirdly specific sports mags… it’s an interesting peek into another world!

2 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Thanks, Anna! I think I saw that ad, too – it’s very true in terms of undivided attention! And I like the thought of reading magazines out of your demographic, too. Thanks for sharing!

3 Megan (Braise The Roof) April 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I MUCH prefer print magazines! There’s something so relaxing about kicking back with a magazine in hand (and preferably an umbrella drink in the other hand, lounging by a pool, but that’s a story for a different day) that I can’t replace with reading online. Eat Like Me was the first health blog I read, too! Go figure. :)

4 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Agreed! I am totally with you on the umbrella drink, too. :)

5 Jess April 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm

I much prefer print, as well. I’m an old fashioned girl. That being said, I try to stay away from these magazines- I think they tend to portray “perfect” women who are probably airbrushed, and many of the articles/ pictures make me feel like I am not doing enough. I can definitely see why they are helpful for others, though!

6 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 10:48 pm

I completely understand where you are coming from – in fact, I have had the displeasure of seeing a picture of a model without a belly button before! I try to read between the lines – and the photos – but that is definitely a great point.

7 Jess April 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm

This was a fun post Jenn. I subscribe to two print version magazines (Runner’s World and Self) and pick up a few others in the store from time to time when I’m in the mood, but I follow a ton on Twitter and Facebook. I love the interaction and the little daily doses of motivation in my news feed, but there’s nothing I love more than curling up with a magazine (or book) right before bed or on the beach.

If I had an iPad I would love to check out the magazine’s apps on there because it seems like they are doing some really cool things. But I don’t feel like I’m missing out reading them in print.

8 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Thanks, Jess! I definitely am with you on curling up right before bed – which is why I am off to do that right now. :)

9 cbrady3 April 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I’m a magazine addict! It’s the one form (besides *gasp* real books) of non digital stimulation that I still have! I cherish my elliptical time with a brand new magazine and love to stay up to date with the newest work outs, recipes, and inspirational women.

10 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 10:53 pm

So glad to hear I’m not alone – AND that you feel the same way about real books! I just can’t part with them – even if my bookcase shelves hate me for over stuffing them!

11 natalie (the sweets life) April 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I love magazines….kinda a hoarder when it comes to them–I think I subscribe to like 8-10 different ones :)

12 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Phew! We’re in this together, sista. :)

13 Monique April 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I used to love Shape and Runner’s World. I won’t pay for them myself because I do agree about them being tedious. Lately, I’ve been reading mags at the library, we have like six walls of magazines that are not for checkout and for library use/reading only. The only other time I get magazines is through frequent flyer points, or at the airport when I have a long flight and don’t feel like reading my books in tow or listening to my podcasts. But I’m not really in that situation much anymore now that I no longer travel for work.

I do think a lot of people have it right though… why pay for magazines when we have such a wealth of information available on all these blogs!

14 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 10:54 pm

That’s a great thought about the library, Monique – thank you! I agree that there truly is a wealth of information on blogs and I would not trade the personal side for the world. So glad to have both!

15 Sarah April 14, 2011 at 6:07 pm

i have subscriptions to a couple magazines that i snagged for amazing deals – like $3 per year for shape! that being said, i’m probably not going to renew them. this is for a couple reasons. 1. i have about 20 magazines sitting in a stack still waiting to be read – i don’t have a chance to read them quickly enough! 2. it feels a bit wasteful to have them in paper when i could find the content online. and 3. i really have noticed the recycled material several times and it annoys me a little.

16 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 10:55 pm

I’ve seen those $3 per year deals – I definitely missed out on those! Thanks for sharing your insight and thoughts, Sarah. Those are all great points.

17 Lee April 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm

I used to read them all the time but then I kind of got sick of them. Not the actual print magazine, but the fact that the big fitness ones that you mention are all very, very similar. Now I subscribe to Cooking Light and Real Simple. I’ll sometimes buy Fitness, Self or Shape if I’m on an airplane or on vacation or something.

18 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I love Cooking Light and Real Simple, too!

19 Erica April 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Your feature is SO cool!!! How awesome. I am very happy for you!! I definitely love magazines in print. I agree- nothing like bringing one to the gym and ripping out the pages you want to keep. I think they will always have a place in our lives, but who knows! Great post <3. Happy (almost) weekend!

20 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Thank you so much, Erica!! It was truly a treat. And I agree with you – I would hate to see print be gone altogether but only time will tell.

21 Lauren April 14, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I definitely have a subscription problem too! I feel like I’ve subscribed to so many that it’s almost easier now to just pay the fee for the year rather than cancel them all. :)

22 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Haha – agreeeeed!! :)

23 BroccoliHut April 14, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Wow! Many congratulations for appearing on the Fit Stop!
I refer to myself as a total magazine junkie–I currently subscribe to Runner’s World, Self, Real Simple, Fitness, and Clean Eating. I used to subscribe to Women’s Health and Shape too, but I found that a lot of the information was redundant among the big 5–they report on the same research findings, etc. Nonetheless, I still enjoy reading them all!

24 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Thank you so much, Caroline! I knew I had a partner in crime when it came to magazines. :) You were actually the one who introduce me to Clean Eating, which I love buying and should just subscribe to already!

25 Karla April 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Thanks so much for the shout-out and awesome post Jenn! I love reading your thoughts—so well-written, as always.

I do read health and fitness magazines 😉 I’m (of course) biased, but I have to say that the new digital editions have so many cool features! Nonetheless, I will always have a soft spot for print. It simply cannot be replaced in my mind!

I’m enjoying everyone’s comments about this post too. What an interesting discussion!

26 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Absolutely! Any time – and you? Read health and fitness magazines? I didn’t know!! 😉 I’m so excited to check out the digital editions.

27 Anne Marie April 14, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I’m obsessed with magazines. I subscribe to 4 out of these 5 and several others… probably over 10 total. It’s an addiction. Honestly, I can’t get into the digital platforms. I like to sit down with my wine in a big comfy chair and rip on the pages I tell myself I’ll go back to later…

28 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Thank you for sharing, Anne Marie! I am SO with you on wine + comfy chair + magazines = bliss. :)

29 Melissa @ TryingToHeal April 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm

i subscribe to probably around 5 mags, all in paper form. i love having them in front of me to feel the pages turn. it’s like regular books. and newspapers. i just love paper i guess!

30 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Agreed, mi amiga!!!

31 Lindsey Ellis April 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm

I prefer the print magazines for the most part…Self is definitely my favorite. It seems to be the most well-rounded between fitness, beauty tips, and recipes. I do find that when I need to refer back to an article or find a recipe, I usually use their websites so technically I utilize both the print version and the online resources.

Its nice to be able to flip through a magazine initially without having to keep a huge stack of them around just because I happen to like some of the articles. I usually keep them for a month or two and then recycle them.

32 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I definitely would have to agree that Self is one of the most well-rounded. It was my very first magazine subscription and the way I found the blog world, so it will always have a special place in my heart. :) Thanks for sharing, Lindsey!

33 Jamie aka "Sometimes Healthy" Girl April 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm

First off, CONGRATS on the fit blogger shoutout! What great recognition.

I still read health and fitness mags like its my JOB because…I wish it were my job :-) Way back at medill, it was my little dream to work at one of those places. To me, there is something so gratifying about carrying a fitness mag with me everywhere I go. I utilize the digital platforms but really prefer blogs to get my health and fitness tips. They are more authentic. I don’t need an RD to tell me what to eat. I prefer learning new things from all of you 😉 So in conclusion – DEFINITELY print mags.

34 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Thank you so much, Jamie! I completely idolized magazines back at Medill, too. Don’t know how I ended up in broadcast other than that I was too scared to move to New York City, haha. I love your philosophy and completely agree that utilizing blogs is the best way to get real, authentic information.

35 Salah April 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I don’t really read health and fitness magazines anymore but mostly because I just dont have the time to read them it seems. I work in the fitness industry so after super long days of training etc. I like to come home and read novels to take my mind off things for alittle. I do love going through and looking at the different exercises!

36 Jenn (eating bender) April 18, 2011 at 11:07 pm

I can imagine that working in the industry, you don’t always want to come home and read more about it! I feel the same way about my field. And I am so with you on reading novels to take our minds off things – my favorite activity in the world!

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