The Virtual Power Of Magazines and Magazine Media: A View From 30,000 Feet. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

May 18, 2015

Mr. Magazine's™ Photo by Allie Haake.

Mr. Magazine’s™ Photo by Allie Haake.

As the magazine and magazine media world navigate their way through the maze of problems and possible solutions to the print + digital dilemma that faces publishers today; I had a thought as I was jetting across the sky at 30,000 feet.

What are the similarities of snow and the clouds that cultivate them?

Yes, that was the thought that popped into my head. And I know what you’re thinking: what in the world does snow and clouds have to do with magazines and magazine media and their problems or boons today? Most of you probably believe that Mr. Magazine™ may have had one too many cocktails as he flew through the air with the greatest of ease, but the truth is that one question put quite a bit into perspective for me when it comes to the quandary of print and digital and the ultimate question of: what is the power of print in today’s digital age.

Snow and clouds both contain water and are both made of the same substance; yet the clouds can’t be held or touched, while snow is tangible and able to create a sensory experience.

Now, imagine that the clouds are digital and the snow is print…think about virtual and real. Clouds are beautiful and of course, we all love to admire them and enjoy their presence, but when they produce the snowflakes or raindrops that we can actually go outside and physically touch and appreciate; we’re captivated. There is a major difference. And we know that feeling will never fade away.

So, using the analogy of snow and clouds; I decided to dig in and find out what are others saying or not saying about the power of print, the death of print or the decline of print.

Using the recurring phrase ‘print is dead,’ as a starting point and depending on the LexisNexis research database, I found 998 articles containing the phrase ‘print is dead’ or a relevant topic toward the subject. Of those 998, forty-six articles appeared which specifically related to the validity of print as a medium. Articles came from a print or digital platform and were editorial, feature or straight news content.

These articles intrinsically focused on the notion that “print is dead.” Since the digital revolution at the turn of the 21st century, that sentiment has seemed to gain more and more tread. But there is a silver lining for print. The articles surveyed reflected an overwhelming majority in favor of the continuing prowess and validity of print moving forward.

And of the 46 articles surveyed, the phrase, “print is dead,” or along the same grounds, was mentioned 28 times. Comparatively the phrase, “print is not dead,” was mentioned five times. The data initially indicates that the analysis of this content will be skewed in favor of the negativity of print in mass media. But after researching each piece, I found, in fact, that wasn’t the case.

The irony is that out of the 46 pieces (see side bar 2 below), only three come from the digital platform. Everything else in the search was published material. So journalists are defaming and critiquing the demise of the very channel they are using. No matter what someone publishes with ink on paper, it is concrete and tangible, which means it has lasting value. It’s most unfortunate that journalists themselves are the ones sounding print’s death knell, automatically sending it to that newsstand in the sky as though it were preordained.

I interviewed Joe Ripp, CEO and chairman of Time, Inc. in the fall of 2014. In Joe’s very knowledgeable opinion, print isn’t going anywhere and certainly isn’t dying. (Also check Side Bar 1 below for some random quotes on the subject of print).

“I’ve been very clear; I think print is around for the next 25 years. Print will be around for a long time. It’s in a slow decline. There’s always going to be room for someone to sit down with a magazine on a cozy afternoon and read a great magazine. That is always going to go on.”

The stigma with the World Wide Web is that, “Everything stays on the Internet forever,” which is in fact false. Ink on paper has lasting value. Print is something that can be touched, seen, and even smelled, adding to the overall sensory experience print evokes. Digital content can be updated, deleted, or changed at a whim, thus only being a sedentary content form. But when someone shares a piece of content on the web, it does not get the full attention as that of someone imploring another to read the article in print. Lasting value means it will last.

“There is something very particular about the act of physically holding a magazine in one’s hand and flipping through it slowly, then placing it aside onto your nightstand or coffee table or kitchen counter and returning to that same thing that you placed aside an hour later or even a few days later. The way that our minds and indeed our bodies interact with printed matter, it’s simply not the same,” said James Oseland, editor-in-chief, Rodale’s newest ink on paper magazine, Organic Life, in an April 2015 interview with me.

Print is the oldest form of mass media. When radio, television, and Internet all were adopted by the masses, these mediums signified the end of print. But print is still alive and kicking. As the numbers illustrate, this has been in constant debate since the digital revolution, and yet print is still viable, still vibrant. The first quarter of 2015 indicated that the print market rose three percent compared to the first quarter of 2014 (via publishersweekly.com). Print has a model that has worked for centuries, but it must continue to adapt to the technology to remain viable. It will be an uphill battle, but print is here to stay.

Snow and clouds; print and digital.

Tangible and virtual; one is, one isn’t.

It’s amazing what zooming across the sky will conjure up as one drifts off to sleep with a magazine in hand.

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ musing…
Side Bar 1: Quote and UnQuote: Random Collection of Words of Wisdom

1.Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP plc
a.Perceptions may be changing. Sorrell is the oracle of advertising, if there is one, and recently told this to The Times of London:
b.“Maybe they [newspapers & magazines] are more effective than people give them credit [for].”

2.Anne Fulenwider, Editor-in-chief Marie Claire
a.“First I would say that I think the American audience, our reader, is interested in the fact that we have a global presence. I think that the Marie Claire reader does have a global view of the world. I believe that the print magazine will always be one of our core businesses and products. If you hadn’t just spent time with him, I’d try to steal this phrase, but Michael Clinton was just recently interviewed about what he calls print magazines: bricks and mortar businesses.”
b.“But our audience is also incredibly engaged on their mobile phones, on the web and on their social media voice. So, I think of print and digital working side by side, complementing each other and all of them being very valuable to our reader because she’s reading the magazine.”
c.“But it’s important that the Marie Claire voice, sensibility and point of view is communicated in the appropriate form for each media, so that when we’re speaking to you on Twitter, we’re catering our message to Twitter. When we’re speaking to you on your phone and showing you a Marie Claire story on your phone it has to be short, visual and popping up one after the other.”
d.“I believe print will always be central and a major part of the brand, but digital is becoming more and more important.”

3.Maria Rodale, Chairman & CEO of Rodale, Inc.
a.“I’m a firm believer in print; I love print and my kids love print. My eight-year-old daughter asked for magazines on her Christmas list, which I think is a good sign. But I think every media finds its place in our lives.”
b.“Magazines used to serve the role that Google does now, but it was a more passive way of helping people find things and get answers. Now magazines are more of a relaxing enjoyable, inspirational and motivational experience.”
c.“Everybody in the industry was probably surprised by how the advertising industry’s year wasn’t their best when it came to magazines. And one thing that surprised me in a good way was that digital, especially digital books and digital magazine subscriptions seemed to be finding their place. I think people were sort of returning to magazines as a print product and everything has stabilized today.”
d.“Print will always be a hugely significant revenue and contribution margin source for us, but the growth will be coming from digital, e-commerce and new products that we have not launched yet, but are in the works.”

4.Susan Glasser, Editor Politico
a.“For too long people greeted the rise of the Internet and digital technology in a very zero sum way. The rise of the Internet meant the decline of print. And clearly we have seen the decline of print, but I think Politico is a good example of how we all need to be thinking in a much more – not platform agnostic way, but multiplatform way and reaching audiences in a variety of different ways.”
b.“You know, you may serve audiences with multiple different kinds of approaches that work for them at different points in their day. They read and encounter The New York Times on their mobile phone and it’s different than the paper they consume in print in the morning over their coffee and it’s different than how they read it at work. And I think that’s a great thing.”
c.“I’m so thrilled about the magazine platform that we’ve built on the website. I think it’s beautiful; I think it’s a showcase for big impactful content and big stunning visuals and we’re really trying to signify to readers in every way possible that this is a different environment; this is a new kind of Politico for you to experience. In addition to – you came for all this great news and up-to-the-minute information and agenda-setting beat coverage of Congress, the White House or healthcare, but here is a space where there’s going to be a terrific cover story every day and three or four interesting things to go around it and I think that’s a cool model.”

5.Chris Kaskie, President Pitchfork, The Pitchfork Review
a.“Well, the idea of ownership has obviously changed and I think the processes haven’t changed as much as the definition. Just like Pitchfork is a magazine and has been. If you read it on the internet, you’ll never be able to own it beyond your computer or your phone.”
b.“At the same time, we were working very hard to create and redefine what it means to be a magazine in a digital publication on the web. And as we continued to do that it was always taking cues from the history of print and being inspired by it. But recognizing that there’s disposableness just like there is with magazines, or newspapers; you get your monthly copy of a magazine and it’s just a normal, glossy thing and you read it and you toss it. It’s not something that you feel like you want to keep.”
c.“We stepped back and we said: we really don’t want to do a magazine, per se. It’s more like a hybrid between a journal and a book and a bit of a magazine, but something that’s worthy of collecting and putting on your bookshelf for a long time and referring to over the years and complementing what we’re doing everyday online and how fast we’re working.”
d.“There’s something romantic about, not print per se, but the idea of having something that is tangible and that you can celebrate and enjoy. The festival is a good example too. You can’t take the festival home with you, but having that experience is something hard to replicate.”

6.Kai Barch, Founder & Editor Offscreen
a.“There were a number of reasons (he chose print) and one of the first was really quite selfish. I was doing web designs for clients and I got really tired of producing something that didn’t last very long; whenever you create a website or some other digital design, it lives as long as the next release cycle or the next version number.”
b.“And so print was becoming almost like this island where I could go and relax and discover the actual process of reading again. It was really nice and calming. And that was the other reason; I just wanted to create something that people would not find distracting and that they wouldn’t feel pressured to read on the go.”
c.“And then, of course, it’s hard to charge money for digital content, where you can put it in a magazine and provide a nice product experience; you make it something people want to keep, a collectable item, it’s then easier to charge people for it.”

7.Francesco Di Maio, Founder & Publisher Uomo Moderno
a.“I went for ink on paper because I believe that my magazine is a collector’s item. So I feel it’s something that people needed, not digitally, but in their hands, something that they needed to hold on to, something physical and tangible.”
b.“But at the same time, I look around me and I see people are still reading magazines and are interested in them and I think one of the most engaging things is that people are really interested in niche magazines. They’re looking to find information according to specific topics or specific categories.”

8.Danny Seo, Naturally
a.“Well, you would think being an environmentalist, doing a digital magazine would be something that I’d be interested in because there’s no trees involved, no waste; it’s as eco-friendly as possible. But when you think about digital magazines, the reality is anybody can do a digital magazine.”
b.“But the reality is, to actually create a beautiful, curated, well-edited printed magazine; it’s not an easy process. And when we really looked at the space and thought about who our reader and customer was and what she’s really interested in right then, which is having some me-time, we felt the reader was looking for a publication where she could actually turn off her phone or the TV and have an appointed reading time with a tangible product that she can hold in her hands and go through page by page.”

9.Joe Ripp, CEO & Chairman of Time, Inc.
a.“I’ve been very clear; I think print is around for the next 25 years. Print will be around for a long time. It’s in a slow decline. There’s always going to be room for someone to sit down with a magazine on a cozy afternoon and read a great magazine. That is always going to go on.”
b.“I come at it with a fundamental belief that there is real value in brands. Brands have always driven consumer interest, consumer affection; consumer purchasing power is created with brands, because brands convey to us a sense of trust, a sense of quality in what they are.”
c.“The reality is that the Internet fundamentally changed the way we all consume content and get information. It may fundamentally change the way democracy works in the future, who knows? None of us know if the Internet is a good thing.”
d.“What we’re trying to do is utilize the devices, utilize the way people want to consume our content and reach them and it’s one of the reasons we have a big video initiative going one. We’re producing thousands and thousands of videos now in this organization and that’s going to go up even more dramatically next year because video is an important component of the way we tell stories and people want to consume video. They want to see it on their phones and sit at the airport and watch them.”

10.Bruce Sherbow, Senior VP of Penny Publications
a.“I don’t think digital will be the demise of print at all, in fact, I don’t know why we keep talking about the death of print because I don’t think it’s happening.”
b.“So I don’t think that digital publishing is in fact going to take away or be the demise of all print, but I’m also not blind, because I know certainly there are advantages to some degree of interactivity, we talked about that a little bit. If you’re online reading a fashion magazine you can click a link and go see a video of someone wearing the fashion or something like that. But there are also some interesting things happening in print, which are more interactive, but we’re not a magazine that engages in a lot of the new technology with advertising, so I can’t comment fully on that, but there is some happening. But I don’t think digital will be the demise of print at all, in fact, I don’t know why we keep talking about the death of print because I don’t think it’s happening.”

11.Lewis D’Vorkin, Chief Product Officer, Forbes
a.“[..]but I can say audiences love magazines. They love the identification they have with a magazine; they love the tactile part of the magazine; they love getting it, whether they buy it or it comes to them; they love the storytelling; they love the photography, and they love what a magazine offers. The magazine business does not have an audience problem; the magazine business has an advertiser problem.”
b.“Technology is really hard to move fast enough for the change in consumer behavior. Consumers move faster than advertisers; they move faster in some ways than publishing technology; this is not about us; it’s about the industry and I think that we’re always finding ourselves just stumbling over the question: how do we move fast enough with the technology that we have?”

12.Ellen Caruuci, Publisher Rodale’s Organic Life
a.“I almost think there is sort of a rebellion against people’s screens right now. I was reading books on Kindle until a couple of months ago; I’m hearing that hardcover books are having resurgence. I think people want something in their hands, they spend so many hours on their screens for work, I think they’re looking for an opportunity to disconnect and have their own personal time.”

13.James Oseland, Editor-in-chief, Rodale’s Organic Life
a.“There is something very particular about the act of physically holding a magazine in one’s hand and flipping through it slowly, then placing it aside onto your nightstand or coffee table or kitchen counter and returning to that same thing that you placed aside an hour later or even a few days later. The way that our minds and indeed our bodies interact with printed matter, it’s simply not the same.”

14.Bob Sauerberg, Condé Nast President
a.“This industry has brands like no other, it has assets like no other, it has editors and consumer marketers like no other. And we’ve all accumulated incredible digital assets that I think will really help us grow. We’ve got to work together to ‘product-ize’ those things, to get to retailers and really move the needle.”

15.Steve Lacy, Chairman & CEO Meredith Corp.
a.“Our greatest corporate lesson in the last year has been to figure out how to connect those dots and help our advertisers sell product to her when she’s right there in the supermarket. Everything that we’re seeing indicates that Gen Y is very engaged in these brands on every platform, from mobile to print.”


Side Bar 2: What Others Wrote About Print

The 46 articles in question originated from various regions and countries: USA, UK, India, Australia, etc: Here is the listing of the articles and its source:
1.“Print Shows Resilience” by John Obrecht in BtoB (May 13, 2013)
2.“The Dead Tree Manifesto” by Alistair Fairweather in Mail & Guardian (June 23, 2010)
3.“Review: Et cetera: Steven Poole’s non-fiction choice: Print Is Dead: Long Live the Digital Book, by Jeff Gomez” by Steven Poole in The Guardian (November 17, 2007)
4.“Johnston Press chief fails to spell out wonders of an online future” by Roy Greenslade in Guardian.com (November 17, 2011)
5.“Print media is just changing, not dying” by Gary Sawyer in The Pantagraph (December 22, 2013)
6.“Print is dead… or is it?” by Ryan Chatelain in amNewYork (June 24, 2009)
7.‘Newspapers must change to compete with new media’ by Hani Hazaimeh in Jordan Times (April 13, 2010)
8.“Media boss rejects ‘print is dead’ claims” in The Star (May 27, 2014)
9.“Tomes in tombs or paper’s evolution?; TURNING PAGES” by Jane Sullivan in The Age (July 30, 2011)
10.NATION DIGEST in St. Louis Post-Dispatch (July 26, 2012)
11.“Is print media dead or just slowly killing itself?” in The Pioneer (August 20, 2014)
12.“APN chief sure ‘print not dead’” by Darren Davidson in The Australian (July 29, 2013)
13.“CULTURE; off the shelf” by Lorien Kaye in The Age (September 19, 2009)
14.“They tell me print is dead – but…” by Roy Greenslade in Guardian.com (March 30, 2012)
15.“Libraries embrace changing demands” by Victoria Ford in Cambridge Times (February 20, 2013)
16.“Society: Print is not dead! Read all about it!” by Alex Spence in The Australian Magazine (May 17, 2014)
17.“Dead keen about digital” by Sarah Walters in Manchester Evening News (January 20, 2012)
18.“Viable print needs to be sold harder: Steedman” by Will Mumford in The NPA Bulletin (May 14, 2014)
19.“OUR POLITICIANS ARE MISSING THE STORY ON NEWSPAPERS” by Michael Gawenda in The Australian (June 22, 2012)
20.“For younger readers, e-books slow to take hold; Parents insist children better with print, even as they buy digital” by Matt Richtel and Julie Bosman in The International Herald Tribune (November 22, 2011)
21.“Do ‘Newsweek’ and ‘Time’ have a future?; Newsmagazines need excellence to make page-turning return” by Rem Rider in USA Today (March 11, 2014)
22.“Opinion: We’re not dead yet” by Paul Choiniere in The Day (October 3, 2010)
23.“Newsweek is dead. Long live Newsweek?” by Tom McCarthy in Guardian.com (August 5, 2013)
24.“Print is not dead: just feast on these banquets of paper” by John Lethlean in Weekend Australian (September 22, 2012)
25.“Books in print, still alive and selling” by Angela Hill in Contra Costa Times (October 9, 2014)
26.“Masters of our own destruction” by Tanya Pampalone in Mail & Guardian (February 19, 2010)
27.“Charging for content way of the future, says expat” in The National Business Review (April 1, 2010)
28.“Pizarro: New magazine celebrates San Jose culture” by Sal Pizarro in San Jose Mercury News (February 19, 2012)
29.“For journalistic greatness, the old model seems all but dead; Common Sense” by James B. Stewart in The International Herald Tribune (August 10, 2013)
30.“Group Says Newspapers Aren’t Dead, They’re Alluring” by Tanzina Vega in The New York Times (October 24, 2011)
31.“Hello! Aims to prove print’s still in fashion” by Gideon Spanier in The Evening Standard (September 10, 2014)
32.“There’s life yet in the old newspaper dogs” by Darren Davidson in Weekend Australian (August 10, 2013)
33.“The rise of the g whizzes” by Tara Brabazon in The Times Higher Education Supplement (January 10, 2008)
34.“Reading, writing and revolution” by Ian Bell in The Scotsman (July 19, 1996)
35.“30-SECOND SPOT / DISPATCHES FROM THE WORLD OF MEDIA AND ADVERTISING” by Nick Bilton in The Globe and Mail (October 2, 2009)
36.“Long live newspapers” by Neil Godbout in Prince George Citizen (April 16, 2012)
37.“A writer out of print is a dead writer” by Adil Jussawalla in Indian Express (June 2, 2014)
38.“Pixel or print, it’s about content; In the Blogs: Bits” by Nick Bilton in The International Herald Tribune (March 9, 2010)
39.“Journalism is the mirror of society – Yam Times 14th Anniversary” in Siasat Daily (August 5, 2012)
40.“Is technology erasing the printed word? Writers fear the ‘ebook’ is killing off newspapers and magazines. They may just – finally – be right, says Jimmy Lee Shreeve” in Cape Argus (October 27, 2007)
41.“The idea of the book” by Nishant Shah in Indian Express (April 8, 2012)
42.“Printed papers ‘will be dead in 5-10 years’” by Nic Christensen in The Australian (November 7, 2011)
43.“Newspapers must change or die” by Wang Wubin in China Daily European Edition (January 14, 2014)
44.“News chairman says media must adapt to changing world” by Richard Gluyas in The Australian (August 8, 2007)
45.“Are newspapers dead? Read between the lines; Value of spinoffs differs between investors, journalists” by Michael Wolff USA Today (August 11, 2014)
46.“So Much for Rumors of Print’s Demise” by Stuart Elliot in The New York Times (June 22, 2006)

Nathan Weber, my graduate teaching assistant researched the data base and assembled the list of articles above.

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