The return of print magazines

The return of print magazines

Giovanni Blandino Published on 9/23/2022

The return of print magazines

Print magazines are making an exciting comeback. We look at some of the most interesting trends and releases

We have to admit, in the early 2000s, print magazines seemed to be heading for extinction. Back then, digital was flaunting its infinite potential to the world, while printed items were preparing to bid farewell to their readers: editorial boards were shrinking, and many journalists were losing their jobs.

It felt like the end of an era. But now, in 2022, we can confidently state that print magazines – contrary to all expectations – have by no means disappeared. After several years mired in crisis, they have managed to reinvent themselves, with surprising results.

Back on the shelves

Some print magazines that had closed are now back on the shelves. Like renowned music magazine Rolling Stone, which has gone back to being published on paper in the UK.

Other magazines have strengthened their position in recent years, including the iconic 032c, the Berlin-based magazine dedicated to creative research and fashion.

And finally, new magazines have been released, joining an increasingly vibrant and experimental landscape.

Let’s take a look at some interesting examples from the wide and varied print magazine ecosystem, both in Italy and abroad.

From travel to sport: the new line-up of Italian print magazines

New magazines are often produced by publishers. Iperborea – a Milan-based publisher specialising in northern European literature – did just that: in a venture that proved extremely successful, in 2018 they decided to launch a unique travel magazine, The Passenger.

The edition of The Passenger dedicated to Portugal. Image:
The edition of The Passenger dedicated to Portugal. Image:

Each edition of The Passenger provides insight into a particular country or city – plus a few special editions, like the ones dedicated to outer space or the ocean – and combines investigations, literary reports and narrative pieces that paint a portrait of contemporary life in the various destinations. You can see the full range of titles here.

Italy also has some new print magazines dedicated to sport. Bimonthly cycling magazine Al Vento, for example, is now on its 21st issue, offering in-depth features, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at everything happening in the saddle, with top-quality photographs. Rivista Undici is also dedicated to sport – and particularly football – and has the explicit aim of using a different, more high-brow language, while the topics covered are often interwoven with culture and science. A new issue is released every two months.

Rivista Undici. Image:
Rivista Undici. Image:

Turning to the cultural sphere, L’Indiscreto is a magazine that has taken a very curious path. This historic title, founded in Florence in the late 1960s, was reborn in digital format, and began to gain renown for its long-form articles, in-depth features and original essays by up-and-coming names in the world of cultural journalism. In 2022, the magazine also returned in a printed format. The first edition came out in May, dedicated to ‘The end of the world’. Luca Romano discussed it in this article from the Huffington Post (in Italian).

Another high-quality literary publication is The Florentine Literary Review – abbreviated to The FLR – a bilingual (Italian and English) magazine of short stories by Italian authors.

Magazines across borders: print magazines abroad

One of the strong points of these new magazines – and especially those in English or printed bilingually – is their ability to cross national borders, and to do so nimbly and without making too much of a fuss. As well as being cultured and interested in niche subjects, the typical audience for print magazines is definitely international.

We’ve already mentioned 032c, which has amassed a horde of obsessive fans. The magazine – which takes its name from a Pantone colour – is dedicated to fashion, research and creative innovation. Founded in 2000 in Berlin, it is considered by many to be the undisputed leading genre magazine. 032c has evolved over the years: it is now also a media company offering tailored marketing services, and a fashion brand, blazing a trail for an alternative business model for print magazines.

The Gourmand. Image:
The Gourmand. Image:

The Gourmand, meanwhile, is a stylish magazine dedicated to food culture. Its main strength lies in its striking, innovative photographs, and writers and artists are also involved in the creative process.

One of the key attributes of many of these new magazines is an attention to detail and high-quality artwork. Riposte is an excellent example of this: a women’s magazine with interviews covering a wide range of subjects, including art, design, music, business, politics and environmental topics. The interviews stand out for their brutal honesty and unusual and original style. The magazine, which received the European Design Award, also has a highly polished layout.

Dirty Furniture is a unique format of magazine, with only six issues planned, each dedicated to a single interior design object. Sofas, telephones, tables and toilets actually act as a starting point for discussing a much wider range of issues: politics, history, technology, psychology and industry. Meanwhile, don’t be fooled by the name of the magazine Math – it doesn’t have anything to do with numbers. It’s actually an erotica magazine where seemingly absolutely nothing is off-limits.

The issue of Dirty Furniture dedicated to sofas. Image:
The issue of Dirty Furniture dedicated to sofas. Image:

In short, immersing yourself in the world of magazines seems a good way to gain more in-depth insight and quality than most digital products. And that’s not all. Incredibly, print magazines also offer more freedom and experimentation, escaping the standardised feel of much online communication.

Our round-up of paper magazines concludes with a title that does just this: Market Cafe, a magazine written in English – but created by Italians – dedicated to data visualisation. Interestingly, the basic premise of the magazine is taking the reader beyond the flat digital world to something more tangible.

Quality, insight and niche interests: the key ingredients in the magazine revival

So how did the entire print magazine sector manage to five itself a smart refresh and kick-start a new boom?

Quality visuals and text, space to look at topics in depth and catering for clearly defined niche interests seem to be the qualities shared by the new range of magazines printed on paper. At the same time, nobody can pretend that the internet doesn’t exist. Print magazines have therefore experimented and innovated in spaces with few digital options.

Creative director Andrea Batilla – the founder of PIZZA, one of Italy’s first independent magazines – is wondering whether it might be time to go back to producing more print magazines. This is how he describes the welcome return of the magazine:

“Nobody expects to find high-quality content on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube, and, although this sounds terribly like something a boomer would say, it is much easier to find insight and curated information in something old like a paper newspaper. The difficulty looming on the horizon if we do return to a tool like the print magazine is precisely this: quality”.

 What do you think? Do you have a favourite print magazine?