Thursday, February 5, 2009

Magazine News: Sit Down and Shut Up

The biggest mistake made by people who think magazines should be more like online products is that the things that make a magazine work as a media form do not work well online. The biggest mistake magazine publishers and editors make in responding to the online critics is trying to continue doing in print what works better online, instead of focusing on the strength of a print publication.
In short, no print publication can compete with online sources for immediacy of news and opinion. When big news happens, I don't wait a week for The Economist or Time to report it; I am reading the news on the web sites of The New York Times or Time or CBS News.
But, when I want depth -- either detail and background on a serious issue, or just the detail and style that an in-depth feature article can bring to an issue, serious or entertaining -- then I prefer to read it in a magazine. I want to lie down on the couch or put my feet up on my desk while I read it and think about it.
John Loughlin, executive vice president and general manager of Hearst Magazines, said as much in a speech to Primex 2009 magazine conference. He called magazines a "lean-back" experience, reports Folio:.
Exactly. I'll gladly read short pieces online -- on a web page or in an e-mail newsletter. But for longer pieces, I want to spare my eyes from staring at a bright screen, and I also want the visual experience designed for me by the magazine's staff of professionals.
So, glad to see Loughlin recognizes the strengths. My greater worry is that there are so many people who don't realize what they're losing by not reading a 10,000-word article and instead reading a 600-word summary. I think that the great tragedy of the decline in newspapers is that the papers no longer have the cash to retain expensive investigative reporting teams and publish pages of background and detail. When news becomes bullet points and generalizations, then it's not much different from opinion. We're missing both the hard news and the enjoyment of long-form journalism.

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