Posts about magazines

Those were the days, my friend….

The most quoted and quotable bit from Kurt Andersen’s interview with Time Inc. editor-in-chief John Huey:

Near the end of our breakfast, I ask about the Future of Magazines. “The big question in everyone’s mind [at Time Inc.],” he says, “is how much [of the present struggle] is cyclical and how much is secular.”

A lot is secular–that is, permanent. We would like to believe that Internet-versus-print is analogous to TV-versus-radio in the fifties: The new doesn’t necessarily wipe out the old. But I think paper media today are more like sailing ships around 1860–still dominant but enjoying their last hurrah. I think it’s late in the magazine era. “I hope not,” says Huey. “If I thought they were dead, I’d do something else.” My elegiac turn has made this funny, enthusiastic man a little morose. “And [Time is] something that most people in America want to see survive, even if they don’t know it.”

That’s like saying most people want me to be President, they just don’t know it. No, I’d say that Time is hardly a necessity of life.

I feel like a crack dealer

Jon Friedman has a funny column watching a focus group put on for show filled with readers of Entertainment Weekly, my baby, who were forced to give up the magazine for a month.

It was endearing, even heartwarming, to observe the obsessive loyalty of these subscribers. The dinner occurred smack in the middle of a horrendous industry slump. Magazines are desperately seeking advertising dollars these days….

That said, I’d hasten to add that these 12 EW subscribers truly need to get out and smell the flowers once in a while, too. (One of them talked about renting a hotel room while in college so she could watch the Oscars ceremony without having her roommates milling around and distracting her from the broadcast. She said that, by the way, with a shrug, as if this amounted to perfectly normal behavior. I don’t know about you, but I could barely afford to buy a slice of pizza when I was in college)….

They dearly missed EW during their period of deprivation. Zoe, a charming lawyer-turned-aspiring-actress, confessed to the group: “I felt lonely,” before smiling gamely and adding reassuredly, “just to the not-pathetic-side of lonely.”

The other panelists nodded knowingly….

Juan commiserated with Kevin, saying: “It was like not having a pen-pal write to me.” He then paused and added sheepishly: “You probably think it’s kind of … freaky.”

I’d like to hear more from those fans and not about the magazine but about the movies. Did Zoe find King Kong sexy? Did Juan get into arguments about Munich?

The point of this little show Friedman attended was, of course, to show the wonders of magazines. It’s all about the magazine. But see the post below about newspapers and community.

EW, I’m glad to see, does exactly what we hoped it would do: It attracts an community of people who love entertainment. But the internet didn’t exist when the magazine was born. Now it does. So now they could bring those people together to share their reviews with fellow movie fans. The magazine has a community. The magazine is a community. So now what?

More presses in mothballs

Business Week is abandoning print for its international editions to emphasize online instead:

BusinessWeek announced today that it will reposition its approach to global markets. A greater emphasis will be placed on providing online news, analysis and information and on developing local language publications while maintaining a single flagship print product.

“We have decided to create robust, customized Asian and European versions of our popular BusinessWeek Online Web site, while delivering a single global edition of BusinessWeek magazine instead of providing separate regional versions,” said Stephen J. Adler, Editor-in-Chief of BusinessWeek. “We are taking this action to harness the growing power of the Web globally and to serve readers and advertisers in a more timely, efficient, and targeted way.”

I have no idea how the international print editions were doing and whether this is more of a retreat from international or a push into online; obviously, it’s positioned as the latter.

Fast Company dialogue: Is print dead?

You’ll see a frightening image on the back page of Fast Company this month: Me arguing. I was half of a dialogue. The other half: John Griffin, president of the National Geographic Society’s magazine group. The question, Is print dead? The first volley, mine:

Print is not dead. Print is where words go to die.

Too many of the ideas trapped on pages end up, at best, in unused archives or, at worst, in recyclers’ pulp, when they should be online: searchable, discoverable, linkable, part of the conversation.

In this new world, the medium is meaningless. Media define themselves by the pipes that feed them but the public does not; we want what we want when, where, and how we want it. The wise media company will be there with us; the stubborn ones will die.

Look at the hoo-ha it took to create this page: lots of photographic, editorial, and production tsuris, and for what? Is our conversation better for being on this slick paper? No, it’s not, because only two of us are in it when we know that the collective wisdom of the people holding this page is greater than our own. We should be having this conversation together.

But that’s the problem with print: It is far too one-way for this two-way world.

I’ll confess that I recycle my lines like a bum homeless person street entrepreneur recycles cans. The rest of what I have to say would be familiar even to a casual Buzzmachinist.

The funny thing is that the end of the page has a link saying this dialogue will be online here. Only it’s not, two weeks after the magazine hit the newsstands. Ding-dong, the words are dead.

Now whither magazines?

I’m stage-managing a panel about magazines in the era of search at the Magazine Publishers of America confab in New York on Thursday. It’s the shortest panel on record: a half-hour. Those of you who know me will know to fear how fast I’ll be talking to cram any questions into that slim slot.

For some context, see German magmogul Hubert Burda in my post, The last presses, saying that he is now investing in relationship software, not content or distribution. See my post above responding to the question in a print magazine, “Is print dead?” And see Paid Content wrapping up the Digital Magazine forum:

A big question – as Bob Carrigan, and a panel leader, consultant and newsletter publisher Bob Sacks, pointed out – is whether any of these magazine-to-Web models is really a way to go, whether they ultimately ignore the power of the technology, and its applications that allow creation of community, complete customization, push and pull syndication, additive linking, hyperlocal service, database mapping, database manipulation, on-demand media, meta-search beyond text, and on and on.

Here are a few of the questions on my list. Please add more.

* In an age of search-engine optimization — when people are finding content via search, when Google has become the home page for all content sites — are magazines left out in the cold because they don’t put articles online or put them behind walls or move them to archives or don’t have rights to keep them up? Are you planning to or do you now put your content up online at permanent addresses so it can be part of the conversation (in blogs, tags, and such) and receive search-engine optimization for your brands? Or not?

* Is search proving to be means of selling subscriptions or of branding?

* Google is a brand killer. People find information via Google and don’t necessarily credit the sites that end up giving it to them. This affects newspaper and reference sites. Are magazines in a stronger position with their stronger brands and voices? Or not?

* What is your worst fear about Google?

* Google is planning to do to print what it has done to online by buying magazine pages and reselling them to advertisers. Are any of you taking part in or planning to take part in this? Do you fear this commoditizes you? Or do you think it brings you new advertisers?

* Do any of you think the day will come when print will be the value-added to a larger online product, audience, and brand?

* Search is just one aspect of online. Do you have parallel strategies to share regarding citizens’ media, distributed ad networks, blogs, podcasts, video, tagging, wikis, communities, and so on?

What else do you want to ask mag execs, including Bob Carrigan, president of IDG Communications; Lauren Wiener, vice-president of Meredith Interactive; and Michael Smith, general manager of