CommonWealth going all digital
Quarterly print magazine ending as we focus exclusively on website
TODAY’S RELEASE of the print issue of CommonWealth will be our last. After surveying readers, consulting with board members of MassINC, and holding many discussions with my colleagues here at the magazine, I’ve decided we should stop printing the quarterly print magazine and focus all of our attention and resources on the CommonWealth website.
The decision wasn’t easy. MassINC has been publishing the magazine for more than 20 years, but the growing success of our 9-year-old website and its various digital products has forced a re-evaluation of our priorities. The website has become our prime vehicle for reaching readers and an important part of the way public policy is explored in Massachusetts.
In the end, I concluded the print magazine took too much time and too many resources to produce. My belief is that these resources should be redeployed to the website, its various digital products, and our podcast, which we call The Codcast.
We explored a number of compromise positions, including publishing a thinner magazine (you’ll notice this issue is a bit narrower), a smaller-sized magazine, and even reducing the number of issues we publish. We evaluated each option closely, but in the end they all felt as if they were merely delaying the inevitable.
The survey also suggested most of our readers are migrating online, even for the content contained in the print magazine. The polling data indicate 10 percent of our print readers only read the print version of the magazine, while half of those with access to the print edition at home or work choose to read the stories mostly or exclusively online. Sixty-three percent of our print subscribers said they would continue to read the magazine online if the print edition disappeared.
Our conversations with readers also highlighted our role in the local news food chain. We aren’t the place readers generally go for breaking news or leaks from political insiders. But we are the go-to place for insightful analysis, coverage of events and people beyond Boston, and for policy debates.
I know many of you like the convenience of the print magazine, the ability to slip it in a bag and take it wherever you go, even to the beach. But the world is changing. Even I, old geezer that I am, have stopped reading print versions of most publications. In the long run, it’s just easier and more environmentally sound to go online.Let me assure you on a few key points. We have no intention of discontinuing our focus on long-form journalism, perhaps the most distinctive feature of the print magazine. In this issue, for example, we have a story on a novel, off-the-books way of funding government programs; a profile of one of the state’s most controversial education advocates; a report on efforts to turn Gateway Cities food deserts into oases; and a summary of what county sheriffs are doing to turn their jails into human service agencies. We also have a Q&A with Gregory Jenkins, the executive director of the Somerville Arts Council.
On the plus side, we plan to redesign our website to make it more attractive and easier to use. We also have high hopes of expanding our staff and our coverage. It’s sad that the print magazine is coming to an end, but CommonWealth isn’t going anywhere and what’s coming online is exciting.