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Digging ‘Print Is Dead’s’ Grave – Sounds Like Fun. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

June 3, 2015

Photo illustration of the dearly departed "PRINT IS DEAD" by Darren Sanefski.

Photo illustration of the dearly departed “PRINT IS DEAD” by Darren Sanefski.

From http://transom.org/2011/four-feet-under/ Picture used for illustration from http://transom.org/2011/four-feet-under/%5B/caption%5D I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of the self-appointed media critics and analysts that seem to be coming out of the woodwork today when it comes to the vital signs of American magazines and magazine media. From a slight pulse to no pulse, these “chosen” ones have deemed it their mission in life to report negatively on the heart rate of magazines and magazine media.

I’m not sure when the pontificators of print’s demise were put upon their lofty thrones, or who dubbed them kings and queens of the print-is-dying court, but nevertheless, they know who they are, no matter how much they claimed to have never said ‘print is dead.’ I am sick and tired of reading and hearing their opinions on what I should think and how I should interpret what’s happening in the magazine industry today.

Not even in my wildest dreams have I ever imagined myself in a position where I could commandingly influence a CEO, an editor, or a magazine publisher on what they should be reading or how they should be running their company. I consult with them and offer my opinions, but never try to bewitch them to agree. Needless to say that with all my years of and in education, with my doctorate and all of my life’s studies, I have not considered that ability among my many talents.

I have always tried to be the bearer of positivity, rather than negativity when it comes to the status and health of magazines and magazine media. True, sometimes when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, be careful, because it could be the train coming. However, more often than not that scenario is the exception, rather than the rule. Usually, light doesn’t mean darkness; usually light is self-explanatory, it means light. Hope. Possibilities. The dark times have been illuminated.

I try never to curse the darkness; you never know what you may discover while you’re stumbling around in there; instead, I try to dig the match out of my pocket and light the candle.

Having said all of this; a few things have taken place over the last few days that motivated this particular justifiable tirade, justifiable because every con has a pro and every action has a reaction and this is mine.

One is the story of Caitlyn Jenner. If you’re a person who knows the media and knows how the media works; was it really a surprise to you that Caitlyn Jenner chose a magazine such as Vanity Fair to release the story and her first pictures to? What other medium could have created the same lasting effect, the same day in and day out, in-your-face exposure as a magazine like Vanity Fair? Every means of communication out there, from television to Internet, was talking about Vanity Fair magazine. Every social media site that digital media has brought into being was consumed with one thing: the subject matter of an ink on paper magazine, a print entity that was lighting the Internet up with more curiosity and concern than the latest pop-up ad from this store or that.

xeyqffdecqgbr9m9dyzz-2 That print publication, Vanity Fair, is as powerful today as it was yesterday, if not more. And the Caitlyn Jenner cover validates that.

Oh, the cynics will cry from their familiar spot at Complaining’s table that we have to be realistic and look at the condition of the newsstands and the numbers. But how often do we need to remind those same cynics (who have also appointed themselves media prophets) that in the United States of America, newsstands are only 8% of the total distribution for regularly published magazines?

I wish those same naysayers would try to tell someone like Tony Romando of Topix Media Lab, who’s making his entire living from the newsstands with his Bookazines, which really are only glorified magazines, that print is in decline or out the door completely. Tony has adapted his business model to the needs and the desires of the American public and it’s working.

I have decided to stop reading all of these opinionated, emotionally driven, power-seeking editorials and comments that continue to tell me how bad off the industry is and will remain, whether it’s circulation revenue in newspapers is starting to be larger than advertising revenue, which by the way should be reason to celebrate, we are finally charging the consumer the fair price for our products.

It was always known that if we created a product that’s worthy of buying, consumers would pay for it, because we’re not just in the content delivery business. The media company as a whole may be a content-generating company, but magazines are much more than content. Magazines are experiences. And the experience that Caitlyn Jenner’s story in Vanity Fair will generate, you can bet will be much more than a five-second click of the mouse.

When I travel overseas and bring back all of these new magazines and first editions; when I talk to these companies’ CEO’s, editors, and publishers and I see the energy and the intriguing responses they have for how media is changing; I never hear that negativity or that phrase: Print is dead or dying.

Needless to say, for those of us, including myself, who don’t have a horse in this race; I feel if we don’t have anything good to say, then we should keep our mouths shut. That’s just plain common sense. If we can’t edify the industry that we all claim to love; if our opinions shed misplaced doubt and negativity on the very profession that allows us to be talking about this today; then we should all stay quiet.

Look at any other medium, any other platform, any other product, and tell me where do you find as much negativism, as many energy-draining articles and predictions about an industry where every CEO you’ve spoken with tells you they’re still making money, good money, and if they start something that doesn’t work, they kill it and start something else. And that has always been the mantra of the magazine business. The death of one publication doesn’t mean the death of an industry. If so, when they removed your favorite TV program; your entire television experience was over. I guess you just haven’t realized it yet.

I am a student of the newsstands; I am a student of the streets; I am someone who spends almost $30, 000 a year buying magazines from the newsstands. I’m not just writing fiction. I live the newsstands; I walk it everyday. I purchase magazines every single day. My monthly magazine bill is larger than my monthly food bill.

And when I see those negative comments, I think about all of the digital entities that have either added a print component for the first time or brought one back from the grave. People like Creativ Magazine, who were digital before print; C-Net; Pitchfork Review, Porter and the list goes on and on. How do the naysayers of print pigeonhole those people?

Or major publishers who have launched new titles: Bauer’s Simple Grace, National Geographic’s History, Smithsonian’s Journeys and Rodale’s Organic Life, to name a few. These are people who don’t take their money lightly and yet, they’re investing in print. And they’re not listening to the self-appointed media critics? How dare they?

Like many in the publishing world, I will continue to refuse the gravediggers of print as they spout their invitations to join their negativity. And as their shovels toss dirt upon print’s coffin, I’ll refuse to play a part in that as well.

In fact, the only shovel you will ever see Mr. Magazine™ touch is the one that will be used after they lower the lifeless (pun intended) phrase “Print is Dead” into the ground. For that one, I will toss a shovel or two…

Until the next Mr. Magazine Musing…

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