The New Magazines

Last month I pondered a series called The New Magazines, I even selected a few targets, then work happened and holidays and I just put it on the backburner and let it be for a while. Silly me! Chris Pearson who blogs at Pearsonified wrote a fine article today on exactly the phenomenon I intended to explore. I don’t think he will mind if I follow up on some of what he has said with a smattering of the ideas that I had planned to roll out and also add why I think it is important for book publishing too.

What Chris Wrote:

Chris starts from the idea that many magazines and newspapers now have successful websites and web presences:

While the Web is certainly a publishing destination in and of itself, I constantly find myself amazed by sites that bridge the gap between concrete and cyberspace. Specifically, I’m talking about sites like the New York Times, Wired, MacWorld, and a host of other Web-and-print outfits.

And he moves from there to discuss how he feels the paradigm is being shifted by blogs:

Blogs: turning the paradigm on its head

There are quite a few bloggers who are essentially running bona-fide publications, and some of them make good money doing it. In my opinion, a few of these sites have reached their tipping points, and they have become as much a part of our information pipeline as any reasonably successful magazine or newspaper.

The next logical step for some of these blogs is to foray into other types of media and to explore different avenues of monetization. One need look no further than a local bookstore to realize that printed works represent a huge opportunity for expansion. Whereas print was once viewed as the starting point for growth, I think that more than ever, it is now becoming a destination for those among us who become successful purveyors of information.

Chris backs this up with a case study of Techcrunch. I won’t quote too much more of Chris’ piece (Go read it). But I will just quote one small piece more. Chris nails what I believe is the “killer app” as it were of magazines (and I consider this the greatest advantage magazines have over other print products too not just web based material):

You can expand into the “quality” sector. One thing that is common among all of the TechCrunch sites is that there’s not a whole lot of journalism going on. It’s mostly a stream of regurgitation, and yet it still works like a champ! A foray into the world of print allows for more in depth, more journalistic articles, and all signs indicate that this sector of the market is ready for big time print coverage. Nobody is in a better position to make that a reality than Michael Arrington.

My Two Cents:

Magazines provide space for longer more considered pieces of journalism and discussion. Admittedly (and this is pretty important when we consider blogs as new magazines) the web provides that facility too but it has limitations.

    ~ Firstly the archived material of a given blog can be hard to find. This is especially true if it is very old and not highlighted (oddly enough Chris has mentioned these issues on his own blog in a previous post). A good quality magazine could leverage historic content from a blog, expose it to new readers, form a coherent time based archive with a proper index and contents table (requiring only a little forward planning) which would in turn help the blog improve its own archive situation.

    ~ Secondly while we often have long hours to read magazines too often our access to computer screens is in between meetings, work and other commitments. We have time to consider brief posts but go beyond the 700-800 word range and you encounter trouble in attention and readability (or maybe you don’t let me know what you think). A magazine on the other hand can craft a truly impressive article of 5-10,000 words and be read effortlessly. It will not be until good, cheap, robust and long lifed portable e-reader appear that entirely web based magazine/blog achieves this goal.

    ~ Thirdly, the new magazines may well prove to be the foundation of a real Print on Demand business. It may sound crazy but think it through. The quality of a magazine is often very high and the cover price reflects this. Equally the consumer is willing to pay a premium relative to say the cover price of a book for a magazine. If a facsimile of a book can now be produced to a fairly high spec within a few minutes (Don’t Believe me, go look), imagine what can be done with a magazine. The Guardian now effectively allows a POD newspaper to be created from its content, that can only become more sophisticated. Even regular bloggers can create PDFs of their material using services like x-fruits.

And this makes sense for books because:

POD Books

People have always printed material from the web; it’s why the printer friendly version was created. But they are unlikely to print a full book which is why the POD element is important. If readers could be sold on the value of POD magazines and newspapers, and the publishers could make money from supplying them, (I wonder how much it would cost insert and ad like this one of the G24 Pages?

It certainly strikes me as it could be a targeted ad sent to a specific kind of reader, perhaps a political message to the current affairs reader or an ad for sporting goods to the person who orders up only sport?) then we are closer to a proper atmosphere for POD books that you simply order in a bookstore and print within minutes.

Print = Extra Value

But this also builds on the idea of the value of print. This will be critical if newspapers, journals, magazines and books are to survive in printed form. There has been much discussion of how books are dead, unlinked and locked out of the system of search and find that pervades the internet and precious little discussion (except among those who love books perhaps) of the value that print can ad to digital content. Ideas like Chris’ show us that there is still very much a place for print (if you read Chris he suggests that it remains the foremost medium).

I still don’t know if this is the way forward, I hope it may be. I don’t know either if Chris is right or wrong (but if he is right then I might be too, if he is wrong then sadly I have no chance). I do know that his ideas ring true for me and sound right in my gut. The funny thing is, that despite all our technology and spreadsheets and profit forecasts, your gut is often all you have to go on in publishing.

Enjoying a birthday

4 thoughts on “The New Magazines

  1. First, let me wish you a happy belated birthday! I must have been busy recyling magazines and sharpening colored pencils when this magnificent post went up — I’m glad you linked back to it today.

    I love the idea of the blog/magazine POD. My memory is that in England there are annuals published every year of print comics — and I know my children (all right, me too), really like collections of their favorite strips. I don’t at all see why this couldn’t be done with really fine blog writing. But it had never occurred to me that there might be some way for people to order up a print version of a blog’s posts for a period of time. I would certainly like to be able to do something like that — particularly cooking blogs, which often have such lovely pictures and litblogs, which really require much deeper reading. I already think of really good blogs as being very much like magazines, so it’s natural to imagine them accessible in print (and I agree with you, print is something that satisfies a different need than electronic text.) And if you could choose how you organize the posts you “publish” that would be fun too. Is anybody doing this? It seems like a fabulous idea.

  2. BL,

    Thanks for the birthday wishes. Appreciated. Yes we do have commic book annuals printed. My home had its favourites. The Beano and the Dandy. I also read a small comic book called Commando which I loved and twice to my knowledge produced an annual version.

    I know that x-fruits have a service that allows you to print the contents of a blog froma PDF but sadly not by collecting the articles you desire into a collection, it simply makes a PDF of the frint page.

    I think it is only a matter of time before the type of service you describe comes into existance for single posts. I can see a day when alongside e-mail this post, Digg this post there will be a Make PDF of this post and also print this post!

    The one question that I think exists is will it be possible to choose a selection of posts (like abasket on amazon) and print those as a single document? Hopefully!


  3. Interesting article, with plenty of food for thought.

    What you left out was the Internet magazine–not a blog, but a regular publication. We at The Internet Review of Books are replacing the shrinking space for book reviews, primary reviewing non-fiction from major publishers. As you noted, they tend to push only a few of their books, so some interesting ones simply fall into the well. We’ve published monthly for nine months; our next issue will appear on July 15.

    Your suggestion about print, and about things readable in e-book readers, makes sense. We’re exploring all the avenues, but moving slowly, trying to get things right when we do them. We figure most people won’t finish a review more than about a thousand words long, so ours are mostly that length; a few, usually of books that are outstanding for some reason, run a bit longer.

    I’m going to keep reading your blog–some good stuff here. I thank you.

    Carter Jefferson, Editor
    The Internet Review of Books

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