Mr. Magazine’s M.O.: Let My Magazines Grow
Let me be very clear from my very first regular column in Publishing Executive: I do not think we have a magazine—as in an ink-on-paper magazine—problem in this country. The medium is A-OK, if not more than A-OK. The medium is at its best today; the problem we have is with the message. Plain and simple. Most of the messages out there are outdated, tired, weak, out-of-touch and, above all, unnecessary, insufficient and irrelevant. So, don't kill the messenger just because the message stinks. There were more ink-on-paper magazines started in 2010 than in 2009. In fact, the total number of such titles, including the specials, book-a-zines and annuals exceeded 800. That is almost 100 more titles than 2009. Were all of those magazines worthy of arriving at the nation's newsstands or in your mailbox? Definitely not! Did they contain content that is needed, wanted or even desired by our customers? Mostly not! Did those magazines create ways to grab the attention of the customers, keep their attention and leave them wanting more? Amazingly, only a few did that! So we need to stop cursing an entire industry—a very good one, indeed—and blame our ills.
I believe we are dealing with two double-edged swords: The sword of the magazine publishers and the sword of new technology (and I am not talking about iPad 1 or iPad 10). The publishers' sword, while now paying lip service to the concept of "consumer-centric" magazines, is an antiquated, advertising-centric business model. The sword of the enhanced and improved technologies makes it cheap—if not dirt cheap—for everyone to think he or she can be a magazine publisher because they can now afford the price of the printing. Magazines are much more than a vehicle to carry and transport advertising, and they are much more than a medium to vent your ills and concerns to a very limited "captive audience."