I’ve been reading a lot lately about media companies going "Web first." I suppose it signals a recognition of the real-time value of Internet information, plus the invaluable online network of linkable relevant information, both inbound and outbound, plus the multidirectional conversations and communities the Web enables, plus the measurability of online marketing initiatives.

I suppose it means that staff needs to be redeployed to serve online initiatives and businesses, and not be solely focused on print.

I suppose that being "Web first" these days is better than being "print first."

But in a larger sense, what does "Web first" really mean? Does it mean we’re bound to evolve into online-only companies? Does it really mean that our print magazines are secondary? We’re ready, then, to walk away from the impact and power of the printed page, to consign it to a siding, a dead end, a vestigial appendage?

I don’t think so.

And too, I wonder if all this "Web first" talk is just nonsense. When print makes up 50 percent to 75 percent of a typical magazine company’s revenue, can it possibly be "Web first in a fundamental way?

The answer is no. No CEO is going to walk away from that kind of revenue in the interest of being Web first.

So what’s really meant when companies say they’ve gone "Web first?" I think they’re trying to say they’ve gone "customer first." I think they mean that the Internet has attributes that are so compelling and powerful that you’d be crazy not to make them the strategic core of your business.

I think they want print to play a role that online-only companies only wish they could do too: To deliver impact, thought-leadership, stature, the final result and the critical ingredient of perspective, none of which are the Web’s strongest characteristics.

I think print publishers recognize that in the marketing game, no one really thinks of himself as a lead, and that without the crucial steps early in the buying process of knowledge of a supplier, awareness of its message, trust in its solution and staying power, a lead is worthless.