Thought’s on the IMAG-MPA Conference And a Love Letter From Samir Husni
Professor Samir Husni and I both love the magazine industry, yet we come to that affection from completely different directions. He is enamored with print on paper, while I am enamored by the global power of content distribution in/and on any platform that the consumer/reader wishes. The differences of our perspectives are very significant, but don't preclude a decades-long, great friendship. Conversations between us are at the very least dynamic, as one young man found out when he was sitting between us at dinner on the first night of the IMAG Conference in Boulder. He got an earful from both sides.
Samir's takeaway from the IMAG conference is a product of his affection and belief in print. Although I, too, believe in the moderate longevity of print, I also believe and fully acknowledge that it is continuing to take a second seat to other platforms and other paths of sustainable revenue. In fact all the IMAG conference subject lines were how to make money and grow your company in every possible way other than print. And that to me is ironic in the extreme. Allow me to explain the irony.
In the early 2000s I was publicly very critical of the MPA Conferences. In my mind there was a digital revolution about to happen and there was little to no dialog in the annual meetings about the juggernaut I saw coming directly at us. Now in the most interesting of turnabouts the reverse is in play, and most, if not all, of the convention is about digital. Digital is the only thing talked about with little to nothing about traditional magazines and how to make them better and sustainable. No sessions about how to make a great cover or distribution tricks to improve circulation or news about paper and/or printing trends - pretty much nothing about the print part of the magazine media business.
To that very point, it is drummed constantly that we are now magazine media. So my decades-old industry wish has come true. Yet as a still standing digital futurist I am uncharacteristically uncomfortable with the total absence of industry discussions of the print part of magazine media.
One more comment - if there was one word repeated more than any other I would have to say it was "Facebook". I'm not sure I heard any speaker not mention it. Predator or friend, Facebook was a bench mark for many a discussion. Which brings to mind a comment by Jonathan Schoenberg who said, "Social media is no longer very social and is now a paid medium" controlled by major companies. Interesting comment that, and I agree. The possibility of organic messaging to many may indeed be a thing of the past. A sad loss if you ask me, but perhaps part of the public will always invent new temporary non-commercial social media platforms.
I will be writing my version of a wrap-up of the conference in the next few days. Where Samir and I agree is that IMAG is a great conference and worth going to no matter what your bias is between a digital or a paper future. The bottom line takeaway as defined by the conference is that our industry indeed has a bright and lucrative future, if you know how to adapt to the times we live and work in. And that thought should be comforting to all.