Similarities & Differences Between Print Media & Online Media

By Aaron Charles

Some prefer print media over a cup of coffee.
i Jochen Sand/Photodisc/Getty Images

The times are a-still changin' in the media landscape, especially in terms of how we consume daily news. While the differences between online and print media may continue to widen, both expert opinion and public sentiment suggest that similarities between the two will likely keep each relevant in some form.


Cost is one area in which online media wins – at least in terms of what it costs publishers to produce content. According to the Wall Street Journal, news magazine giant Newsweek expects to cut tens of millions of dollars from its operating costs by eliminating its print edition, effective as of January 2013. But this doesn't mean necessarily that readers will see a lower price for each issue. Newsweek execs plan to charge the same per-issue price for its digital edition as it did for print, but do plan to offer a discount for yearly subscriptions. Overall, though, most online media is free and usually less expensive than viewing print media.

Ad Revenue

The Knight Digital Media Center reported in September 2012 that online revenues for most newspaper media are still a small fraction of the income from traditional print. Still, a Pew Research Center report from the same year revealed that while online ad revenue remains smaller, revenue from print advertisements is falling while online ad revenue grows. Statistics like this show that while online ad revenue is growing in strength, there are advertisers who prefer print, even as other advertisers might be ditching print for online media. In many cases, though, a marketer's ads spread across both print and online media.

Environmental Impact

Another similarity between online and print media is the fact that both mediums pollute the environment. A Swedish environmental study found that print publishers pollute more from the act of making and distributing their product, and online publishers pollute more from requiring readers to use energy while online, and to use devices that are manufactured in facilities which emit heavy amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Of course, the degree of pollution depends on the specific industry practices in a given area.


There are readers who love the feel of print media, and there are readers who love the speed and accessibility of online media. And then there are those, such as Slate journalist Jack Shafer, who love digital media so much that they ditch their print newspaper editions in favor of the digital versions, only to come crawling back to the print some time later. Why? Some, like Shafer, miss the layout of print, feeling that it more effectively guides their intuitive sense to what content is "more important" or "more urgent" than other content. Additionally, some readers, when speaking about books as well as newspapers or magazines, still favor print over online media because they consider digital media anti-social. With online media, they can't size people up according to their reading material, because what they're reading is concealed on their electronic device instead of in plain sight for all the world to see.