Magazines: An argument in favor of print

I asked three journalism professors who teach magazine courses to tell me the top three magazines they would choose to subscribe to in printed form, no matter how good the Web site for the magazine was. Here are their lists, in rank order:

Professor No. 1

  1. O (Oprah Winfrey’s magazine)
  2. Esquire
  3. National Geographic

Professor No. 2

  1. Esquire
  2. Sports Illustrated
  3. Outside

Professor No. 3

  1. National Geographic
  2. The New Yorker
  3. Real Simple

My own list:

  1. National Geographic Traveler
  2. ID (The International Design Magazine)
  3. Dwell

Other titles that came into the conversation included The Economist, Garden Design, and The Week.

The idea is to think of magazines you really, really love to have in hardcopy format — and WHY. The photography and maps in National Geographic are, of course, a big factor. Magazines such as O and Dwell have a highly appealing form factor and luscious paper stock. In other words, there are some features in the print medium that attract readers and cannot be duplicated in digital media.

So what’s on your list? Choose only three, and be sure to rank them!

This post was inspired by these recent articles concerning the magazine business:

  • Where Will Magazines Be Ten Years From Now? (The New York Observer, April 1): “The point, then, is to capitalize the physical experience of reading magazines. If it’s all about textual and textural experience, then the more dear that experience becomes, the more of a luxury object it becomes.”
  • Magazine circulations down. Can digital media save the day? (New.Journalism.Review, March 11): “So here is a quick (and totally subjective) review of how a couple of magazine publishers are adapting to the multimedia world and a few ones to watch.”
  • What’s Next for Newsmagazines? (The Wall Street Journal, April 4): “At a recent speech at Columbia University, [Newsweek editor Jon] Meacham delivered a blistering response after he asked who reads Newsweek and none of the 100-odd students in attendance raised their hands. ‘It’s an incredible frustration that I’ve got some of the most decent, hard-working, honest, passionate, straight-shooting, non-ideological people who just want to tell the damn truth, and how to get this past this image that we’re just middlebrow, you know, a magazine that your grandparents get … I just don’t know how to do it, so if you’ve got any ideas, tell me.'”

It’s worthwhile to give some thought to why certain contents are really wonderful in one medium and not so great in another medium — no matter how you try to adapt them to fit better.

Someone asked me what I think about Consumer Reports, for example, and I quickly said I think the online version is a hundred times better than the printed version. The charts and tables are easier to read online, for CR, and the printed version has always been exceedingly ugly. CR is also a publication that was made to be searched, and the online search works reasonably well. (I’ve paid for an online-only subscription to CR for many years now. I haven’t touched the printed edition in all that time.)

9 Comments on “Magazines: An argument in favor of print

  1. The Economist I love the writing, and it’s an enjoyable way to get a grand view of what’s happening around the world (at a cafe on the weekend, perhaps)
    National Geographic

  2. I think people like magazines for the experience – but the trend is fast, fast, faster. I just don;t see that in the magazine business.

    It’s almost comical when you subscribe to a magazine and get the Christmas issue in September/October – because they have to print it so early. I mean that is crazy.

  3. Thanks for the link (and the traffic!)Mindy…

    It’s interesting to hear about Esquire – the UK version is struggling at 60,000 a month.

    Here are a few UK ones…
    1) Private Eye (media goss)
    2) New Statesman (love/hate in equal amounts)
    3).Net (geeky!)

  4. From a photographers pov of course nothing can replace seeing your work in print.

    1- The Atlantic (Besides the excellent writing- some very nice use of photography)
    2- Colors published in Italy with photographers included from around the world.
    3-The Fader- Huge with younger photographers/ strong design but can’t say I “get” all of the content.

  5. To the list of magazines I read or would read in print, I’d add the readable, issues-oriented publication Mother Jones. I, too, like National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler and Esquire. Architectural Digest and House Beautiful have lost a little appeal over the years, but I still enjoy them from time to time. Sadly, the once-beautiful and very meaty association magazine Audubon has slimmed down and become an imitation of the occasionally controversial, always graphicically appealing magazine of lyric prose that Les Line edited when I was a member of its staff.

  6. 1. GQ
    2. National Geographic
    3. Real Simple

    These are magazines that are as much about their design as their content, as is Esquire (although I believe GQ, whose creative director is Fred Woodward, is visually stronger right now.) I also prefer magazines that are about the long read, such as The New Yorker, in print. But even though I teach design and love the sensory experience of reading and looking at print magazines, I worry about their environmental impact and their place in a sustainable world.

  7. 1. Velvet Park
    2. Communication Arts
    3. Juxtapoz

  8. 1. Economist – the whole world in a compact package. Best way to keep up on the road if no ‘net.

    2. Wired – Amazing subject matter, great writing and even better visual treatment.

    3. Fast Company – Ditto above, but focuses on The Valley. Should be required reading for every journalist who wants to better understand the world that is leaving us behind.

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