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Friday, May 24, 2024

Hail to the Chief

Since the entire country has boarded the midnight train to Doom-and-Gloomville, it should come as no surprise that magazines are rocking the Troubled Industry look.

As I’ve said before in this column and as you are no doubt tired of hearing, print media in general seems to be dying a slow and painful death at the hands of the Internet and a poor economy. Magazines are no exception.

This will have the impact of fewer niche journals being around to cater to your bouts of hobby and whimsy. Goodbye, Nude Chef Monthly, thanks for playing.

I am using the term “niche journals” somewhat loosely (and because I like how it sounds), and in fact am speaking about magazines that aren’t Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated or Cosmopolitan. For reference, let’s look at what’s been going on with magazines lately.

Cottage Living, a branch of Time Inc., has not only stopped publishing a print version of its magazine, but will not even maintain an online presence.

In April, Games for Windows ended its print run after 27 years and now publishes exclusively online. PC Magazine announced last week that it, too, will move online; their final print issue will be the one for January 2009.

Sports Illustrated announced that they will be discontinuing SILatino, the Spanish spin-off of their magazine.

When magazines aren’t closing their doors (or moving their doors onto the Internet), they’re letting fewer people through them.

New York Magazine laid off a food critic who had worked there for 40 years, Life & Style has issued massive layoffs and Modern Luxury is doing the same. Layoffs are pervasive throughout the industry, with salon.com letting go of several writers as well. And they can’t even use the trendy excuse of declining print advertising!

Looking at this information, it seems that the layoffs and closures of magazines, while probably related to the changes in media (how many times can the Internet rear its ugly head in one column?), are also largely due to economic stress. Consequently, it is unrealistic to assume that layoffs and the like will continue at such a torrid pace for an extended period of time.

There are also bright spots to be found. Some magazines are still innovating the industry. ESPN The Magazine took Sports Illustrated’s model, added some SportsCenter flavoring and is now beating SI at its own game. Esquire roundly refuses to give in to the notion that print is dead, as evidenced by their revolutionary 75th anniversary cover.

It is distressing to think, however, that two successful magazines aimed at PC users and people that play PC games were both unable to continue a normal print version. While personal computing may have been a hobby when the magazines started 27 years ago, that is certainly not the case anymore. Granted, the target audience involved in this scenario might be more willing and able than most to get their news online. Nonetheless, consider that those same people were willing to buy a hardcopy version of that news for nearly three decades.

I’m not gonna lie, before about two years ago I was one of those people that got a few magazines at the rack in Borders, found a comfy chair, read said magazines and then returned them to the rack without paying for them. Now I won’t do it because I feel like I’m reaching into the pocket of one of the poor staff writers and taking five bucks. Admittedly, I accomplish the same feat by going online and reading the articles for free, but doing it still feels bad.

Maybe the solution to the magazine industries problems is a simple reduction in the number of chairs at Borders.

Oh, and in case you were reading this and wondering the whole time: I got zero responses from the public regarding last week’s challetunity. No poem for you!


RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at editor@theaggie.org.


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