Guest Column: The Promised Land
Let me start with the rosy portion of this column: I'm a magazine editor, and this is the best time ever—ever!—to be on the creative side of the magazine business. Further, from where I'm sitting right now, I tell you: I can see the promised land—the green and verdant place where old and new media productively coexist, and everyone in publishing gets rich. I can see it.
As to the best-time-ever business: With the proper application of imagination, magazines can do just about anything their resources and their inclinations allow.
In the past year, we've published a fashion portfolio in the magazine that became a music festival on our website, complete with music videos and downloadable MP3s of original songs. Our photography morphs into video, our illustrations become animated films. We're building interactive games for various devices, and every one of our covers moves and/or talks. We have a daily news organization, and we create long-form works of fiction and non-fiction that stand the test of time. We've sold apparel directly from the pages of the magazine. We've made movie stars sing and dance in print and, with the February issue, images of our cover subject could appear in every Barnes & Noble in the United States through the magic of an augmented reality app on your iPhone. There are days when we feel like there's nothing we can't do.
Further to this best-time-ever business: Now that the age of e-reading has begun in earnest, the whole old media/new media divide is closing and, with the addition of the iPad to our repertoire, the whole digital thing is coming more clearly into focus. What I mean is, for the entire lifespan of the Web, there was this false dialectic at work that posited that the Web was going to kill off all forms of old media. As a result, there was tension within publishing companies between their old and new media operations. The addition of the iPad and the prospect of the e-reader explosion has made it clear that old and new have no choice but to work together—in part because the workloads are too crushing to waste time in pissing matches, but also because there is genuine opportunity here.