Thursday, January 29, 2009

Words from Andrew Wagner

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:

First I just wanted to say thanks to Diana for taking the time to stop and talk with me at the Inspired Design conference in North Carolina and for taking the time to post her thoughts here. Secondly, I just want to send out another thanks to everyone who has commented here. It is great to see all the energy and enthusiasm and care that's gone into them - especially for a magazine guy like me!

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:
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200901u/fate-of-newspaper-journalism

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 awagner@craftcouncil.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!

Thanks Andrew for your inspiring thoughts!


26 comments:

cindy : quaint said...

andrew's response looks to be so thorough, i'm going print and read it on the subway when i go home! i think i'll put it into the MAGAZINE i brought with me today for safe keeping. thank you, both.

jess gonacha said...

Wow, what a thorough response! i completely agree that consumers should have to pay for what they consume-- i'm absolutely guilty of wanting things for free now, what with the age of the internet, and it's goingot be interesting to see how this evolves. what a great discussion, diana! thank you!

Krissy said...

I'm so glad you sent it to him! Very interesting read- I'm going to bookmark the article so I can go back to it. Thanks for sharing.

erin@designcrisis said...

It is true that I tend to expect things for free, perhaps because -- at least for now -- I'm working for free. I spend hours a day writing and editing content for my blog because it's a labor of love (ok, and also because I'd like to think that I could make a buck someday, somehow from all that work).

This makes me consider the idea that perhaps I am devaluing myself and my work, but the simple fact is that there are so many people out there with things to say and no venue to say them. Hence the blogging revolution.

I agree with the idea that magazines and newspapers are much more in depth with greater coverage and access than I can ever hope to achieve while working for free. Plus I still love the idea of touching things -- humans are essentially tactile creatures. So, a balance of both. For now.

Oh, and American Craft, if you're short any writers, I know someone who's unemployed!

drollgirl said...

can't wait to read that article. thank you.

blue moss said...

thanks for sharing
michelle

hmstrjam said...

this is fascinating, will people start charging for blogs or how about views of artwork?
Basically the art and music industry have suffered via the new proliferation of free media. Actors had a strike over the streaming of web video and getting paid for their work- i think there's something unfair about all the artwork getting viewed for free online ... artists really suffer, especially the emerging ones - i hope people will recognize the value in owning the real work of art and not just click through it online and be satisfied!- that's missing everything!

Designers' Brew said...

that's a really interesting, thorough response from him.

I think I might be the opposite of all the people who commented yesterday about how much they love the physicality of a magazine, the experience of leafing through it, tearing out pages, etc... I am thoroughly happy to be digital. Because at least with shelter/design magazines, which I'm looking at for research for work, I rarely read the text; all I want are images, or manufacturer/vendor names, so I will rifle through a magazine in 20 minutes flat. And right-clicking an inspiring image is a hell of a lot less work than tearing out the page and stuffing it into a plastic sleeve, which then gets clicked into place in the appropriate spot in my inspiration binder. Actually, in my bedroom at this very moment are stacks comprising several years' worth of Interior Design issues that I just never got around to eviscerating, cause I just couldn't be bothered. So I LOVE the digital model. It's a bonus treat that blogs are free, but if a hypothetical web-zine that I found was a good resource were to set up a subscription service, I would totally enroll in it. For me it's more about the convenience than the expense.

Designers' Brew said...

Just thought of something--I think my attitude to the print vs. digital issue has a lot to do with the fact that I use magazines almost exclusively as a resource for work, not for personal pleasure. I plow through them looking for stuff I can use for my job, so I appreciate the quickness and ease of web/blog-surfing. So when I saw The Sassy Kathy's comment about how freaked out she is by the Kindle, it brought the point home; one of my best friends is (or was, until she got laid off in last week's Random House bloodbath) a book editor, and the Kindle was an utter joy to her, because its ease and efficiency freed her from an avalanche of paper manuscripts. I guess all this to say, I can totally understand why I am probably in the minority on this one; I'd suspect that most magazine readers do so for pleasure, not for work. I definitely don't think I'd enjoy Glamour as much if I had to read it on my computer screen instead of in my lap on the bus down to visit my family.

erin@designcrisis said...

That's a good point, Miss Designers' Brew. I enjoy reading magazines for pleasure; in fact I drag the experience out for as long as I can, perhaps so I feel like I'm getting my money's worth. If I had to look at them for work, I'm not sure I'd feel the same way.

On the other hand, my stepmother has a Kindle and LOVES it. I am quite sure I would not enjoy that.

Slightly off topic: one of the greatest "discoveries" of my entire life was a very rare original copy of Andreas Cellarius' 350 year old "Harmonia Macrocosmica" just hanging out in the regular stacks of our college library. I think that cemented my love of paper and books forever. So, I guess everyone comes at this issue from an entirely different perspective.

daisy janie : scoutie girl said...

Fantastic follow-up - it will be interesting to see what happens in the next 8-10 years.

Thanks for posting this topic and the forum to talk about it, Diana!

Joyce said...

WOW- Diana what a great post! xoxo

picciolo said...

Hi Diana, I've only just managed to add a comment to your original post, what a great discussion and response you have had. After reading Andrews reply I would have to agree about print and online needing to work in tandem with each other, American Craft seem to be doing exciting things
: )

Drömma Lotta said...

Hello Diana!
As always a pleasure to visit your blog :)
Check out my own if you have the time.
I think Fredrik Färg and his RE:cover chairs are really lovely!!

kat said...

Go here
http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/01/29/you-need-to-see-this-video/
for a look back at this prediction from 1981!

paula said...

very nicely said. i wonder when that balance will come.

hello gorgeous said...

This is a very interesting topic. As a consumer, the future of print media concerns me; as a journalism major in college, the future of real news is an even greater concern.

Thanks to Andrew for illuminating on The Atlantic piece. I knew John Crewdson and am sorry to hear he was fired by the Tribune - that seems such a harbinger of things to come. He was so old school. I made him lunch when he was doing a story on my first husband. And, Andrew, you'll be interested to know that Crewdson had the audio content of our interview on the Tribune's website back almost 9 years ago or so.

Hay-now said...

Hello everyone. Thanks for reading my way too long crazy post. And thanks Diana for posting it. That is really interesting that Crewdson put up the audio content on the Tribune's site that long ago. I'm curious about it. Was it the raw footage from an interview which was turned into a printed article? The thing that is interesting to me about what we did with that raw footage (putting it up on the site for all to hear) is that the writer really hates it. I had to offer to buy him many a beer in order for him to allow it. He felt like it took away from the magic of the story. I don't agree, I think it adds to it, but I thought that was an intriguing perspective.

hello gorgeous said...

Hay-Now,

Yes it was the raw footage of our conversation at the kitchen table. I don't think it was likely his decision. I didn't know the audio would appear on the Trib's website; I thought it was for accuracy. I was not happy about it, actually.

At the time, the content of the story was potentially history-making, so people were curious about every detail. It could have been a way to preserve some of the early history but I think it was more likely a way of outdoing a story the New York Times broke. I'm not sure.

As it turned out, it wasn't history-making (at least not in the context we had all hoped). At least, not yet. Who knows? Maybe he'll still get the story...

please sir said...

Great commentary - I'm enjoying all your comments!

nadia said...

this is so great! thank you !

Hay-now said...

Thanks for the information "Hello Gorgeous." Very interesting indeed. FYI, this is Andrew Wagner, American Craft guy here. Just haven't updated my google account lately so "Hay-Now" it is...

Ms Unreliable said...

Very interesting read, and so many thoughts to ponder! I think that one thing we're all becoming very used to, whether it be in a magazine or on a blog, is the consumption of space through still images. We no longer feel the need to experience a space to admire it, nor do we even want to necessarily understand the space before we attempt to appropriate elements into our own lives. I think this runs the risk of being unsustainable, not only as we try to mimic someone elses style, but as we are continually told to "update" our look, whether it be fashion or furniture. Consumption is not without consequence, however many magazines and blogs alike seem to want to distract us from this by urging us to purchase more. Perhaps this is the bitter aftertaste of the ad-driven market that is now in freefall.

jae said...

Diana,
This is truly interesting and thanks for posting Andrew's response. I see more and more media "complimenting" themselves on the web. Whether it be showing more photos, having audio, or even a facebook page. It has all become expected. I'm off to read the links Andrew provided now.

Hey Harriet said...

This is a great post! I haven't yet clicked the links included, so will do that now. Just wanted to pop in here first & leave a comment saying thanks for sharing this. Thought best I did that now before I commence my link clicking! :)

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

This is a great post, Diana! I'm so glad you caught up with Andrew, and that he was kind enough to share such a thorough response with all of us (your captive audience. :-)

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment. Even if I don't get a chance to respond please know that I read and appreciate your thoughts. Every comment counts!

Related Posts with Thumbnails