Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Last Print Starlog?

Starlog.com reports today that the April 2009 issue of Starlog magazine (#374, pictured) will be the last, at least for now. The magazine announced "the temporary cessation of the current run of Starlog as a print magazine. After 33 years, and considering the present state of the economy, we feel its time for a major revamp and will be temporarily discontinuing publication while the model and redesign of the magazine are contemplated and executed."

I know it's probably too early to get answers, and in this economic climate, answers might not mean much because conditions change constantly in the marketplace. But since they're floating around in my head, I'll just write out my questions here: My assumption is that when a magazine "temporarily" ceases publication, it's usually permanent. So is this planned as a permanent print shutdown, or is it really a re-tooling? Also, I'm naturally excited about a revamping of the venerable magazine -- I've written here before what I thought needed doing, though I'm not so delusional that I think that's coming to fruition -- but what type of revamping is contemplated is something to wonder about. And will there be a staff changeover? Are longtime editor David McDonnell, managing editor Alan Dart, and art director Heiner Feil out of the picture?

For those of you not in publishing, you might feel tempted to be skeptical about the allusion to the state of the economy and think it's only an excuse, but the economy is very bad for publishing, and the printing and distribution infrastructure in this country for periodicals has -- in my humble opinion -- basically broken down. Even my own magazine has combined issues for this next year to bring our frequency down from 12 to 10 times, saving a lot of money in the process.

The Starlog.com report does state that the final issue in this run of Starlog will be available on its web site in digital format, which is a good move. It is a "modern" thing to do for a magazine that once called itself "the magazine of the future." But on a selfish angle, it's also what I've always wanted from magazines I've liked that have closed up shop (er, temporarily). In addition, the entire run of the magazine will be digitally available on the site at some point in the future, and that's also exciting news.

With the recent relaunch of Starlog.com, there's reason to hope that the outcome for the magazine/brand will be positive and bright, and I'm looking forward to it. There are many ways to launch/relaunch/continue a print magazine today, including one of my personal favorites, the HP-run MagCloud (basically a print-on-demand magazine that's no cost to the publisher). There are also magazines that are distributing only digitally (or digitally in addition to print). Publishers will have to decide whether the persistence of a print magazine on a person's coffee table or bedside can be replicated by an online-only product (and hence I think MagCloud may offer a good future, especially if they can bring down their high per-page costs). But that's their calculation to make.

As for me, I'll just keep anticipating the future.

April 10, 2009: Update.
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