The irony: The magazine industry – especially the dead-tree side of it – is a big industry that is not going away any time soon. But it is seriously challenged by emerging new media, media fragmentation, changing media consumption patterns, and advertisers’ redirecting of ad dollars to places other than magazines. Of course, that explains the Magazine Publishers Association’s recent $40 million campaign to communicate to advertisers that magazines are still relevant and not dead. Well, I guess the Association of National Advertisers is convinced in part, for it has just selected a new publisher to rejuvenate its own dead-tree magazine. I wonder if it will also be digital – it should.
I think magazines will always be around, but not like today. Today, there is simply too much redundancy – just go to any newsstand and the wasteland becomes obvious. The magazine industry also thinks of itself too much as a manufacturer of physical products. Magazines also have to rethink their identity and place in the universe when passionate people – sometimes far more passionate than professional editors – begin to self-publish and build authority and popularity in our increasingly digital world.
Magazines should instead think of themselves as stewards of affinity groups; as trusted brokers of relevant information; as moderators and facilitators of ensuing conversations. Wouldn’t that be the best way to leverage thousands or millions of like-minded people?
I hope magazines continue in some form, for my wife is an editor at one. But I’ve warned her that in ten years she’ll find that her value will be not in fitting the mold of a so-called “magazine executive,” but in her ability to: listen; write succinctly; distill and express ideas that really resonate with others; and convey a smart point of view. It might be in paper format, but probably in digital, with a combination of text, audio, video, interactivity and…community.
Speaking of the ANA, I highly respect that organization, which is under the leadership of Bob Liodice (who has an important blog I pay close attention to). I highly respect the MPA as well, which is under the leadership of Nina Link. But I sure as hell wouldn’t want Nina’s job!