In what at first glance looks like a sign that the world has gone mad, Facebook recently released a print magazine called Grow. Facebook tells us it’s a logical step that stemmed from business executive events it has been holding in the UK. We already knew that sometimes a screen just doesn’t cut it.

The Grow magazine is apparently filled with in-depth interviews and spotlights on certain businesses and leaders. Facebook will not only send a free copy to those who attended their executive conferences, but make copies available in airport lounges and train stations. Despite initially calling it a magazine, Facebook has backtracked a little to claim it’s actually a marketing programme.

If it looks like a magazine and has pages like a magazine; it’s a magazine. It also says so on the cover, but Facebook tells us it’s more of a “thought leadership platform”. It took some digging, but the trickiness about the magazine that is apparently not a magazine relates to stricter regulations that apply to publishers. There seem to be fewer regulations for printed thought leadership platforms.  

Why has the ultimate tech business turned to old-school print?

It’s a good question, given the use of mobile devices has been steadily increasing since before Facebook was even born. It looks like the team at Facebook have stumbled upon something we already knew – sometimes people prefer to turn a page rather than scroll.

Grow by Facebook has given a limited explanation around its foray into print, with a post about their product stating:

We know that business leaders have limited time for long reads at work, so we’ve also created a physical version with journeys in mind.”

That would have been a plausible reason back when aeroplanes were WIFI dead spots and the cost of data was through the roof, but these days we can literally access the online world almost anywhere, especially on many journeys. If that’s the true reason, Facebook is too late.

Is this the end of the internet?

Of course not! Although it has some faults, the world that opens up because of the internet is far too valuable for many people to retreat from. What’s more likely is that Facebook has simply realised that there’s room for both a print and digital presence.

Of the people sitting alone at my local cafe last Saturday morning, there were as many people reading physical newspapers as those scrolling on their phone.

A couple of people (myself included) were propped up with laptops. I go to that particular cafe for their amazing banana bread and because I know the WIFI password. Others go to read the paper as they drink their coffee. The WIFI is free, yet the papers are on high rotation.

Technology hasn’t stopped cafes from maintaining their daily newspaper and monthly magazine subscriptions. People are still showing up to leaf through the pages, even when reading a digital version is an option.

It’s not a journey that makes people want to read a physical product as Facebook would have us believe. It has always been the case that people like options and will choose their content platform based on their present circumstances. As Facebook has figured out, the best way to catch the most attention is to have a presence in both the print and digital worlds.

One of the Monkey Media journalists has her own views on what Facebook is up to. You can read her theories about a possible Facebook Fingerprint Database here.

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