I sent the Future of Print post to Andrew Wagner, editor-in-chief at American Craft Magazine, who initially encouraged me to discuss the future of print media on Please Sir. I enjoyed his response so much that I thought I would post his observations. This also gives others the opportunity to respond to his statements and explore this topic further.
Here's Andrew Wagner:
There is so much to say about this topic but I'll try to keep it short (though I'll admit brevity is not what I'm known for so forgive me) and before I delve into anything I wanted to encourage you all to check this out when you can:
It is the best piece of writing I've seen thus far on the whole print vs. blog thing. And though the piece is much more geared toward newspapers everything the writer points out could just as easily be applied to art/craft/design printed publications. Again, it is well worth reading if you are at all interested in this topic.
I wrote Diana much of what I think about this in an email this morning but I'm going to go ahead and restate it here. The simple fact is that most blogs will never be able to afford the in-depth kind of work that so many newspapers and magazines do (i.e. first person research, fact checking, interviewing, photo-shoots, copy-editing, editing at all, designing in a way that is literally out of the box – that is not just formatted to fit everyone’s screen, etc. etc.). The question is, do readers care about any of that? I know I do but it is a serious question.
I think however, there is a fundamental problem in the current business model. That is, being ad-driven. Readers have a real loyalty (as witnessed by all the passionate comments here) where-as advertisers just want (and need) to sell their product and turn a profit and they will go with whatever advertising format suits that need and allows them to fulfill that goal most efficiently (and cheaply). I think it was a huge mistake to switch to the ad model as opposed to the reader model as the major revenue stream for magazines. Admittedly that model is nothing new but we are just now seeing repercussions.
All this talk reminds me so much of when Napster first came out and many musicians (and record companies) were in an uproar. What happened was Apple stepped in and found a solution that satisfied the consumer, the content producer and the distributor - I-Tunes. The model is much simpler for music than print but the future of magazines – and I actually think of all content producing anything – is that people will have to pay for what they consume in one form or another. The consumers need to understand that they are getting something of value (and they actually need to be given something of value). I think there is ripe opportunity for someone like Apple or Google or some other as of now unknown force to find a solution to the distribution of content in much the same way that Apple did with I-Tunes.
Now I am not an anti-free content person a la Metallica but I certainly see their point. Newspapers and magazines have devalued themselves so much that the majority of content consumers don't think they should have to pay for anything - at least when it comes to editorial content (writing and images etc.). Therefore we find ourselves in the position we are currently in, where even publications with thousand and thousands (and sometimes millions and millions) of loyal and devoted fans can't support themselves without mass amounts of revenue from advertising. That is not to say that advertising is bad (and in fact is quite often the best part of many magazines) but to merely point out the balance was all out of whack and in fact had been for sometime.
There is so much more to say about all of this and I really do find it fascinating but I won't hog all the space here. However, if I happen to cross paths with any of you I'd love to continue the conversation. And I'd also love to hear anymore thoughts if you'd like to share them. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In parting, I'll just echo what several other people have already stated. I think both content streams (print and the web) are extremely important and the future will lay in them working in tandem. Just to give my magazine, American Craft a little plug, I think we are starting to do some really interesting things for instance. Please take a look at this when you can:
It is a story from our February/March issue written by one of my favorite writers of all time, Robert Sullivan, about the amazing artist, Judith Schaechter. We've posted many more images from the photo shoot than we could have possibly put in the magazine but the coolest part - and something that I'm extremely excited about and haven't seen anyone else do as of yet - is that we also posted the audio from Robert's interview with Judith. Therefore you can read the piece, look at the images and hear Judith and Robert like you were there. It gives insight into how the whole piece came together and adds another amazing element to the story - giving the readers not just a visual experience but an aural one as well. I hope that we'll be seeing more things like that moving forward!