A think piece from the upcoming print issue of Spotlight Magazine.
There’s a reason why you’re reading this. Magazines aren’t dead. And it’s time we admit and take joy in this fact. Repeat after me: Magazine’s aren’t dead. Let that sink in.
Almost two years ago I wrote an article for Adbusters titled, “The Death of Print.” The article focused on newspapers and their swift descent. Their inevitable fall when advertisers left them and jumped in bed with the Internet, leaving the newspapers to scramble for other love partners (a.k.a. money). And while this is still mainly true about the printed newspaper, I was wrong. At least in the present about the death of all print. This example is manifest in you reading this. And here’s why.
As a people, it’s in our nature to want to belong. To be a part of a community — however large, tightly knit or strange said community is — we want to be included, to feel welcome and accepted. It’s a human condition, mainly only lost on recluses. But for the greater majority, you want to belong. Family. Glee club. Facebook. College. Career. Magazines. They are all based on communities. Our world, our basic way of being — even the concept of a world divided by countries — is based on being a member of a group. And magazines, to make an argument in a sentence, do just that.
To read a magazine is to lay claim to an audience. You are a part of the magazine’s demographic. Be it Oprah’s O magazine (you go, girl!), a skater mag, Seventeen magazine, Esquire, Vogue, Woodpeckers Quarterly, Vanity Fair, art zines or Sports Illustrated — it doesn’t really matter which one, you are identifying with its defined culture. And good on you. Magazines work because they know their audiences, at least a projected audience. (That’s actually one of the first rules of writing: Know your audience. And write to them.) The magazine knows and understands its targeted demographic, and because they know this, they can fill their pages with apt material, including advertisements. The stories you read, the photos you soak in, the layout that wows you, the perfumes you may or may not enjoy — all there for a reason. For you. Well, you and the culture (or demographic) you’re identifying with.
Magazines, in and of themselves, are culture builders. Having been an editor-in-chief on an award-winning student publication and written for numerous established magazines, I’m constantly dumbfounded by the innate power of print. How absolutely absorbed you can become in a magazine. Magazines are a collective of writers, editors, photographers, illustrators, designers, fact checkers et al. that come together to create a mini-world. A microcosm devoted to an individual audience. A community, in other words. And that’s something that you can’t find on the Internet and sink your teeth into. Not in the same way.
“Will the Internet kill magazines? Did instant coffee kill coffee?”
The Internet, the magazine’s biggest contender and closest friend alike, runs best due to its immediacy. You can stay up-to-date in split seconds by scanning Google News headlines, your friend’s Tweets, Facebook photo albums and so on. But, mainly, you’re not using it for substantial information. As in, sure, you might spend a crapload of time surfing the net daily. But when you’re doing this, you’re glancing, analyzing and gathering snippets of information. The operative word is snippets, small pieces. You’re not fully immersing yourself in one stationary place to absorb all it has to offer — the one exception is Facebook, but it’s there that you are only gathering tidbits even if you’re on there for seven hours at a time. So, case in point. But with a magazine resting in your lap, you’re immersed in a physical world distinct from the hyperactive digital realm.
Allow me to come back to an earlier point: The fact that the Internet needs magazines, and magazines need the Internet. They fuel and complement one another. Kinda like Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in Superbad. Kinda. There’s a campaign going around in magazines and online. It’s called Magazines, The Power of Print. And it’s brilliant (“We surf the Internet. We swim in magazines”), humorous (“Will the Internet kill magazines? Did instant coffee kill coffee?”), not to mention informative (“Adults aged 18-34 read more issues than adults 35 and older” and “Magazine readership has actually grown over the last five years”). So put that in your virtual pipe, Internet.
But it’s because of the web that magazine sales have grown — people go online to buy the bloody subscriptions in the first place. And they do so because magazines offer something that the Internet doesn’t. Depth. You’re skimming many, many surfaces with the net, but you’re only skimming. With a magazine, you’re engaging in deeper connections.
Let me put it this way: There’s a reason why magazines aren’t tossed in the recycling bin like newspapers. There’s a reason why they’re everywhere at airports. There’s a reason why doctor’s offices always have a stack. (Same goes for guest bedrooms and bathrooms.) There’s a reason, to recycle an earlier point, that you’re reading this magazine. Magazine’s are irreplaceable. They offer a deeper meaning or connection to varied subject matters and ideas. They offer an engaged perspective on a thought that was only glanced over on a blog or daily news headline. And dammit, this is something to celebrate. Let’s celebrate it together as a common people, strewn together by similar interests.
Like magazines, for example.