Guest Column: Still in Search of the Magic Bullet?
Some have run to the Internet, believing it is the future of publishing. The Internet is not the magic bullet that will save us, though. Remember the invention of the microwave? Almost every American home has one, yet the microwave will never replace the oven. Yes, it is convenient, but for all of its speed, the microwave will never be able to fully replicate the flavor, texture and overall satisfaction of an oven-cooked meal. There are some foods that can't even be cooked in a microwave—just as there are some aspects of a magazine that Blackberries, laptops and Kindles aren't able to replace. Now, computers and computer-driven gadgets do have their value—they can inform, update and serve as perusables. But reading a magazine is a personal, almost intimate experience; something no backlit, battery-driven device will ever approach. They cannot replace the relationship between a reader and her favorite print publication.
This brings me to my biggest concern: that some publishers are sacrificing their integrity and losing readers in the process. Even one of my favorite magazines, one to which I have been loyal for many years, finally lost me when it seemed to have the same cover story week after week, and editorial content so disappointing that I could no longer justify the purchase. The way I felt at that moment was the same way a person feels when a once-beautiful relationship goes sour. The disappointment was almost palpable.
That's how important the relationship between a reader and their favorite magazines is, and that reciprocal relationship is something of which many publishers seem to have lost sight. It's at the heart of any successful endeavor, and failing to be mindful of it in the publishing industry means failing to understand the very nature of our business. It's about understanding not just what your readers want and need, but what they've come to expect. It's about understanding them the way you understand your best friend.