Watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama was indeed an inspiring thing even if it was on television. Sadly I did not receive an invitation. Seeing my friends update their pages on Facebook such that photos taken at the inauguration were posted immediately also was a cool way to interact and get a bird’s eye feel for how it might have been to be there.
Magazines like LIFE and the Saturday Evening Post used to perform the same function. Detailed photo spreads on events of the day made their product must see media.
So while most of the weekly magazines are doing their darndest to remain alive (and this is apparently a losing battle – see US News going to a monthly!) the way magazines could stage a revival would be to offer a product that the internet simply cannot compete with. Lush photo spreads of the inaugural on heavy paper would be a collector’s item for sure and a hefty cover price to boot would be a huge draw for readers and advertisers alike. Count on several being on the newsstand next week although I have no advance knowledge of a particular publication taking this direction.
My 15 year old daughter still gets Seventeen Magazine and told me that she would rather get the magazine than read it on the internet but she likes having access to both. She/I pays for the subscription and reads it cover to cover as soon as she gets it. Talk about connection! There is something about seeing photos on high gloss high quality paper that makes them much more memorable than when viewed on your computer screen.
So while it is no surprise that the mass magazine appeal of the 1950’- 1980’s is dying away, magazines occupy an important part of the media equation. Upgrade the paper, charge more and connect with the audience in a personal way by delivering them the content they want to see and read. The market may be much smaller but it will still be a market after all…
I just had a discussion on this subject with a writer for a magazine yesterday. I believe there is still a role for magazines with well written articles, providing indepth analysis and editorial accuracy that is too often online. It is impossible for magazines to match the immediacy of internet news. However, the ability to provide a thoughtful, indepth and acurrate article or editorial still seems to mainly be the realm of magazine, providing the bridge between the right-now of online and prose of books.
I always remember your story on Men’s Health in Japan being desired by Rodale and then you recommending that they do not go into Japan since Japanese men are more into fashion than into fitness. They failed miserably when ignoring your advice. Relevance is always the key. The Economist is maybe the only publication that is long form writing and growing – why – because you cannot get their point of view anywhere else.
We have to agree to totally disagree on this.
I think Publishers are quickly losing the last remaining bits of financial health they had as ad pages, newsstand and circ are all plummeting. I’m not sure you could get a majority of people to accept many magazine offerings even if you gave them away for free. The circ numbers are probably even worse because many people who get magazines don’t actually read them (it’s a running joke about the Economist — everyone get’s it but no one read it).
I don’t doubt your daughter does represent a core group of very engaged readers that some titles still do have. But the overall macro trends are devastating the print publishing business model. The best will survive and build viable digital businesses as Huffington Post has done.
For the inauguration I saw someone post a text cloud of Obama’s speech on Facebook. That linked to a zazzle.com page where you could order mugs, shirts etc. with the speech text cloud printed on it. Got the mug and am enjoying my memento — very cool.
Here’s a related sample: http://www.zazzle.com/obama+inaugeration+gifts
For the future of publishing check out zinio.com and product the forthcoming PlasticLogic reader: http://www.plasticlogic.com/
Point well made Peter and it is no secret that publishers in general are losing ground every day. What I see as remaining relevant in terms of ink on paper publishing will be a vastly different and smaller niche type business. The immediacy of web publishing and new tools like the ones coming out like Plastic Logic will continue to change reader habits. I see a place for printed content not for nostalgia’s sake but because there are people out there that will still desire a paper product. They will have to pay a lot more for it than they have been accustomed to since the model is broken. But there will be those that want that experience and will pay for it.