CNET’s Plunge into Print
CNET, after finding success online, has launched a magazine.
December 10, 2014

Tech website CNET recently became the latest publisher to embrace a surprising trend: Editors decided to launch a print product, even as print magazines and newspapers across the country have struggled.

Experts said they expect this phenomenon, known as reverse publishing, will continue as successful digital publishers seek to grow their audience and advertiser base.

“Nobody is talking about the death of print anymore,” said Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi. Instead, entities are focusing on creating a relationship with audiences, “regardless of the platform,” he said.

CNET was founded in 1994 as a television network and originally a digital-only publication. It published its first issue of CNET magazine on Nov. 3.

The cover of the first edition of CNET magazine.

The cover of the first edition of CNET magazine.

Sid Holt, chief executive of the American Society of Magazine Editors, said there are plenty of reasons why a publication would want to move from digital to print.

“There’s a different audience on every platform,” said Holt. “It also gives you an opportunity to do different stories. Print’s a better medium for providing context and longform journalism…So there are plenty of reasons for doing it, you grow your audience, you grow your advertising opportunity [and] it gives you a better opportunity for certain kinds of storytelling.”

With the new magazine, CNET plans on targeting the layman who is interested in technology.

“We looked at print as an opportunity to…bring the kind of content we do online to a new audience, the new audience being the mainstream consumer,” said Connie Guglielmo, editor-in-chief of CNET news.

Other tech magazines, Guglielmo noted, are focused towards tech-savvy audiences.

“There is no [technology] magazine on the market today that’s a mainstream consumer publication,” said Guglielmo.

CNET isn’t the first publication to move from online to print. Holt said AllRecipes and Pitchfork, the music-based pop-culture website, both moved from digital-only to print in 2013.

According to The New York Times, other companies following the reverse publishing trend have included WebMD, which is publishing magazines, Bonobos, an online retailer that is now opening physical stores and YouTube channel AwesomenessTV, which is starting a book imprint.

Husni, also known as “Mr. Magazine,” said that the trend from print to digital only really occurs when a magazine is failing.

“Anytime a magazine takes its print and goes to digital it means they don’t have an audience,” said Husni. “And if they can’t survive in print, they can’t survive in digital.”

The opposite is true too: If a digital entity is successful, it only makes sense to expand its empire and move to print.

“We are going to see more of that,” said Husni. “How can you call yourself a multimedia entity if you aren’t in all media?”

Guglielmo said CNET didn’t have to hire any new people to produce the magazine. Instead, it was produced by in-house reporters, editors and photographers. CNET partnered with McMURRY/TMG, an independent content marketing agency, to help with production and handling the print and distribution.

The magazine costs $5.99 an issue and is being sold on newsstands in stores such as Target and Costco, according to CNET’s press release. About 200,000 copies of the first article were printed.

The advertiser reaction was also “fabulous,” said Guglielmo, with many notable brands taking out ad space in the magazine, such as AT&T, GMC, and Porsche. CNET magazine makes most of its money through advertising, said Guglielmo.

How will this magazine compete with the already established giants? Guglielmo named two things: its frequency and focus.

CNET magazine is a quarterly magazine, coming out four times a year.

“We aren’t competing with magazines who publish weekly or monthly,” said Guglielmo.

Also, CNET magazine is built around the mainstream consumer. They focus on “you, your house, your ride (or your car) and your work,” said Guglielmo.

“We are writing for people who don’t have to know a secret code to know what we’re writing about,” said Guglielmo. “We are not an insider-focused publication. But it does show off that we know what we’re talking about when it comes to tech.”

Some of the magazine’s stories include a gift giving guide for the 2014 holiday season, an article on whether or not to wait for the Apple Watch and an article on the 2014 Tesla Model S.

Although print’s not going to replace people reading stories on their mobile devices, smartphones or tablets, Guglielmo said, it’s still a relevant medium.

“People do like to decompress,” said Guglielmo. “They like to shut off the screen and they like to read things in print. Print is still a very viable platform as a way people read news and we’re happy to be a part of that landscape.”