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Editor's Note: Who Says Print is Dead?

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Any magazine worth its salt keeps a strict separation between advertising and editorial. "Church and state," we like to call it. Maybe it’s a bit pretentious to invoke John Locke and the U.S. Constitution, but that’s how seriously good journalists take the concept that advertising dollars shouldn’t influence editorial coverage. (I’ll leave it to you to decide which one is the church and which one is the state.)

Still, we editors appreciate the confluence of purpose that we share with our advertisers, and we all serve a common master: you, the reader. And so, from time to time, we survey our readers to get a better sense of what it is we can do to serve you better with not only the magazine but also with the StreamingMedia.com website and our conferences.

We sent out just such a survey in August and received 586 responses (a number that seems small but is statistically representative), the vast majority from people who identified themselves as readers of both the website and the print magazine. Given that both we and our readers focus on online content and technology, we were especially surprised by one key finding: Of all the ways that we communicate to you—the magazine, the Streaming Media Xtra enewsletters, our conferences, and our web events and sponsored white papers—you’re most interested in the magazine.

And by no small margin, either. In response to the question, "Are you interested in the following offerings from Streaming Media?" 67% said "yes" to the magazine, while 59% said "yes" to our web events, followed closely by the enewsletter, sponsored white papers, and the digital edition of the magazine. (Conferences came in last, but that’s to be expected in an era of reduced travel budgets—even in robust economic times, only a small percentage of our magazine and website readers are able to make it to our East, West, and Europe events.)

What’s more, the print magazine isn’t simply something you read to pass the time; nearly 60% of respondents said they saved an issue or article for future reference, and 45% said they gave an issue or article to a co-worker. In other words, the magazine’s got legs, and our subscribers do their best to make it go viral.

And then there are the numbers that made our publisher in Vancouver shout so loud I could hear him in Wisconsin: 43% of respondents said they’ve contacted an advertiser or visited a vendor’s website after reading the magazine, and 37% said they used information in Streaming Media to help them make a purchasing decision (54% of respondents said they were the purchasing decision maker in their organization, while 36% classified themselves as either a "recommender" or "influencer").

Before you wonder if our arms are sore from patting ourselves on the back, my point in sharing all of this isn’t just in reference to our magazine. It’s no secret that the print magazine business is hurting; Magazine Publishers of America reported that revenues among top consumer titles for 2Q 2009 were down more than 29% over the same period in 2008, and American Business Media found revenues for trade magazines were down 26.5% in the first half of 2009.

But our survey results demonstrate that print magazine readers clearly find value in the old ink-and-paper content, even if their business is creating and delivering online content. I’m no Luddite—reading books with the Amazon Kindle app on my iPhone has been a truly revolutionary experience, and I’ve found myself addicted not to checking my email but to trying to squeeze in another chapter while I’m waiting in the doctor’s office—but I’m still a firm believer that print communications carry with them a weight and a substance to which the web still hasn’t caught up.

Of course, that’s only if the content is good, and the best thing our reader surveys do is tell us how we can improve what we’re doing. Almost 78% of survey respondents said they wanted more technical and how-to articles, and well more than half wanted more about streaming hardware and software, as well as content production and product and service reviews. Mobile video is also plainly on your minds, as more than 55% of respondents said they’d be interested in more coverage of mobile technologies.

Our mission going forward will be to—with apologies to The Kinks—give the people what they want between the covers of Streaming Media magazine. And while we’re committed to improving our online offerings, as we have with the recent addition of our Streaming Media TV original video content, I can’t help but be particularly inspired by the interest shown in the content delivery method you’re holding in your hands right now.

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