Comparing magazines with music is like comparing a kite to the wind that carries it across the sky. The kite is tangible, and watching it brings its own kind of joy to the experience; the wind is gossamer with no visual substance, yet as real an experience as your hair lifted off your neck on a hot day.
It doesn’t matter to you how you receive that breeze when your skin is hot and sticky. It can be from an opened window in your kitchen, to the sun roof in your car; the end result you anticipate is the same…to cool off from that sweet breeze.
The kite floats back down to you when you’re finished running across the field with it, the diamond shape bright with spring colors and virtually alive from its race across the blue sky, plastic still popping and breathing from the exertion. It’s substantial and real…you can touch and feel its presence.
It’s the same thing with magazines and music. When people compare the two by saying something like, “Magazines are going the way of vinyl,” the observation is moot. First of all, vintage is back and trending like crazy in today’s world. And second, magazines haven’t gone anywhere, unlike vinyl records; check out your newsstands, they’re robust and healthy.
But the mootness of the observation is this: music has always been like the wind, ethereal and invisible to the eye. Your favorite song flowing out of your car radio or your iPod is an active participant in the joyful experience you are receiving, but it’s not a tactile presence that you can hold in your hand. It’s the sound of the melody romancing your ears that gives you that bliss. And to you, at that moment in time, you could care less whether you hear it from a radio, an iPod, a CD, or a twelve piece orchestra for that matter. You just want to hear your song.
But the experience of holding a printed magazine and reading from it is a very real occurrence. The pages are slick and smooth to your touch. The contents are what you selected, your choice of material. It’s an intimate and personal experience, devoid of any of the interruptions of pop-up ads or infinite internet eyes taking note of every click of your mouse. The advertising and editorial content live in harmony next to each other, complementing rather than annoying and fighting over your attention. Ads flow naturally and in a very logical and systematic way, so that skipping them seems almost sacrilegious to the experience. Music, on the other hand, is all about the tunes, the musicians, the band and not the vinyl, the tape recorder or even the iPod.
And while many people fall in love with the artist or group of their favorite song, and revel in a fantasy world created by some mystical connection with the singer, the odds of anyone falling in love with the editor or publisher of a magazine are pretty much slim to none; at least, not without a little one-on-one wining and dining first.
So to shackle magazines and music together in some comparison of antiquity is not only unfounded, but also ridiculous.
Vinyl records did take a backseat to other platforms, such as 8-tracks, cassette tapes, CDs and ultimately, digital apparatus, but magazines haven’t been replaced by anything. They have grown new branches, with their digital counterparts, but no one has replaced the tangible experience of holding a magazine. Not even the iPad. These accoutrements only enhance the print experience, they don’t replace them.
Digital is a new media; it’s here, it’s not going anywhere and we all enjoy its amenities. But it doesn’t replace the print experience. And it isn’t trying to. Digital isn’t killing print, publishers are. Instead of forcing the death of print down our customers’ throats, why don’t we give them what they really want and encourage both?
There was some controversy recently with Beyonce when it was reported that she may have been lip-syncing when she sang the Star Spangled Banner at the inauguration of President Obama, the real-live experience versus the virtual one, minus any imperfections.
This matters to the topic only as a reference as to how real and virtual can go hand-in-hand; how one can use the digital to enhance the physical. It’s a perfect union, really. Union being the operative word. There are times the physical, the tangible is what you want and need. Other moments, the virtual realms answer the call. But isn’t it nice to have both?
So when I hear someone say, “Magazines are going the way of vinyl,” and that they have so much in common, I have only this to say:
“I will surrender one thing to those out there who insist upon the similarities of magazines and music: they both start with the letter ‘M’.”
P.S.: The above column first appeared on CommPRO.biz website Jan. 27, 2013.