Can a magazine develop an online existence the way a newspaper can (The New York Times, for example)? It depends on who you ask—and whether that person thinks the magazine format has a viable future. Myrna Blyth—a veteran and celebrity of the print world (former editor-in-chief of Ladies’ Home Journal and founding editor of More Magazine) who now heads a new online project—believes a better way has arrived.
“I don’t see it as a magazine,” she says of her project, BettyConfidential.com, a women’s lifestyle Web site billed as, “Your best friend. Only better.” “I do think it has a very attractive design, which makes it very easy to navigate. It has a front page, but a magazine—no.” What’s new online—social networking, interactive content, integrated marketing, real-time updates and video, among other features now considered a normal part of most people’s media experiences—distinguishes her site, she suggests, and others like it from the print magazine format and what it offers.
Much of the debate over the future of magazines, in fact, centers on whether these fast, interactive online features have made the print magazine format soon-to-be obsolete. Paralleling this is a sense among many that old revenue models, built around a print monopoly and dependent on the fortunes of advertisers, do not reflect the reality of 21st-century culture and economics.
“In good times, when advertising is floating everything …that’s fine,” Blyth says. “But in this ‘perfect storm,’ you now have this incredibly strong competitor, the Internet, which is taking the time of your potential readers and, at the same time, giving them very similar material.”
It’s a common refrain these days, but while some publishers are banking on a digital future, others are thinking in terms not of print’s demise, but of what role it will play—the best channels for strategy and investment during a time when the fallout from a brave new media (and economy) is far from certain.