Understanding Print vs. Online Usage

Do you know how users consume print and digital media? If you think they’re the same, you’re wrong. And if you’re building or running a membership website with that mindset, you’re in trouble.

The web is not a big magazine. The average user goes online to research a topic, and will spend about 10 minutes doing it. This is the key in defining print vs. online usage. A user subscribes to a magazine for leisure, while the average Internet user subscribes to a membership website for information.

When a user subscribes to a magazine, they are spending approximately 12 hours a year reading your magazine (for a 12-month subscription) and spending an average of $26.00.

With membership websites, the average membership website subscriber will show up 2.7 times per year and will spend about 10 minutes per visit. That’s an average of 27 minutes per year.

What’s the difference?

On the web, a user knows exactly what they’re looking for. They’re typing in a topic or question into your membership website search tool, and they’re reading what they need. On a membership website, users are much less inclined to browse than in a print product; there’s a lack of urgency to consume the information in a timely manner.

In print, a user has the opportunity to “finish” a task, such as reading your whole magazine so they can recycle it and look forward to the next issue. Therefore, a subscriber is much more likely to spend up to an hour browsing the pages of your magazine. The urgency is much higher in a print product, where the user has the opportunity to complete a task.

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The difference between print and web is that on the web, the user generally knows what they’re looking for, whereas in print, the subscriber will discover things they didn’t even realize they needed to know because they are reading from front to back. This is something they can’t do on a membership website.

When traditional publishers bring their brand online, their first mistake is to build a membership website with the mindset that the web is a big magazine. A membership website is much more in-depth than any print product. It requires much more attention, frequent updates, and acts more like an encyclopedia; if an encyclopedia was updated digitally on an hourly basis.


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