Posted on April 9, 2008
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
- O (Oprah Winfrey’s magazine)
- National Geographic
Professor No. 2
- Sports Illustrated
Professor No. 3
- National Geographic
- The New Yorker
- Real Simple
My own list:
- National Geographic Traveler
- ID (The International Design Magazine)
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.)