Digital ravings of an analog girl

         Shoes and the meaning of life.

July 2, 2009

Adapt or die…

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 7:25 pm
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There are many tragedies going on in the world today, and for the most part, I find I am momentarily sad about them when I hear, and then real life distracts me and I get over it and move on.  But today, I have been sad all day.  ‘What could have saddenned you, oh perenially cheerful Ritsa?’ I hear you ask (yes, the voices in my head speak like the Children of the Corn)… Well, it’s the chronic, soon-to-be-fatal illness of my longtome companion, mentor and past employer, the print magazine. 

In a tweet (via @bernardhickey) I caught up on the latest Roy Morgan Readership estimates for New Zealand.  This has saddened me for a more prolonged period than usual.  The same day another tweet announced the demise of Vibe magazine.

OK, I have to declare my interest here.  Much of my working life (and certainly the most fun part of it) has been spent in publishing offices and printing plants.  In addition, I fully disclose that I am a magazine floozy.  I spend more money and time on mags than I do on shoes.  And I’m not very particular – I pretty much pick up and read any periodical.  My house is littered with trashy gossip mags (of course), weekly news mags (I like Newsweek and Time), intellectual wank mags (The Economist, The New Yorker, Private Eye), business mags (HBR, Businessweek), in-flight mags, glossy fashion mags (I like In Style, Elle and Vogue), special interest mags (NZ Quilter or Pig Farmer anyone?) even status wank mags (Tattler and the deliciously wanky Prestige from Hong Kong).  You get the picture right?  I’m not fussy…

So I’m deeply upset that the universe of disposable reading material is curling up and dying.  And it’s all their own fault.  I point the finger of blame firmly at print publishers.  And they point the finger of blame at anyone they can think of (including me as a blogger).

From fat to extinct

For years, successful magazine publishing has been a fine balancing act between satisfying readers with useful, insightful, entertaining and ‘exclusive’ content and satisfying the advertiser with engaged and numerous readers (except in subscription only oddities like Consumer magazine).  Any publisher who says only one of those matters is lying, or delusional.  And for years, magazine publishing, when it succeeded, has been a bit of a goldmine.

Enter the internet and digital publishing.  Gosh, then we added self publishing!  Suddenly anyone who wanted to could publish content for all the world to see.  And then the unthinkable happened – the world saw, and read, and followed, and subscribed.

In the meantime, the print publishers thought they would jump on this bandwagon too.  They began to publish their magazine editorial online and their magazine advertising too.  They struggled to make this pay, while watching their print circulation head south (and consequently their ad revenue too). 

Why there’s a picture of Vikings at the top

Print publishers have tried to adopt the online environment, but in much the same way as Vikings tried to adopt Greenland.*  It seemed like a good idea to Great Chief Timeandahaf when they first arrived in Greenland.  They set about their usual raping, pillaging and plundering and all was well for a time.  Then the weather  turned a bit cold and Timeandahaf and his Viking warriors found that a horned helmet and a long moustache didn’t really keep you that warm (although it worked a treat at scaring rape, pillage and plunder victims).  So did they put on the seal skins and build warm snow houses like their neighbours the Innuit?  Nope, they just kept doing what they’d always done and consequently sealed their own fate.  The Viking were the stronger, more dominant force for sure.  They had the power and the money.  But they didn’t survive.  The mild-mannered and adaptable Innuit did. 

Please don’t go toward the light! 

So magazine publishers, I challenge you to adapt.  I am a voracious reader of the print form and I want the print magazine to survive.  But even such dinosaurs as I no longer go to a print magazine to find out which car to buy, or what Ashton Kutcher had for lunch.  In both those cases, I ask Ashton Kutcher on Twitter. 

I want my print magazine to provide me with in-depth analysis, editorial, and entertainment I can’t get anywhere else.  Don’t just focus on information – I can get that virtually anywhere.  Get some real thinkers to to write some engaging stuff that I have to pause and think about every couple of sentences.  Delight me with fantastic writing styles.  Don’t bother with short-from, abbreviated dross (except for you NW.  You should keep up the short-form snipey dross – I love it!).  Dazzle me with fantastic high-quality photographs and illustrations that I’ll want to rip out and keep.

And then give me all the information I need online.  I’ll even engage with your advertisers, as long as I’m not expected to sit back and look at a banner ad.  It’s an interactive medium.  Interact!

Just give it a shot.  Please.  And I will be faithful.


*The Viking history used to illustrate this point, may in fact, not be based on any historic research at all.  And may in fact be based on Asterix comics and something I made up.  Just a bit…

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