A lot of people are under a lot of strange impressions nowadays. The internet empowers it. Example: 19% of Americans, many of which vote and operate dangerous machinery, are under the impression that the President of the United States is a secret Muslim. This is a sincere belief, and its horrifying for that very reason.
Equally strange is the swirl of projections and assumptions that surround the future of the magazine. The future of the magazine, many, many important and bright people believe, isn’t much of a future at all. This is true for publishing in general. Books and newspapers and pretty much anything involving the milky surface of paper, it is believed, are on their way out, endangered species and veritable black holes of profit. The money isn’t there and neither are the readers.
The important thing about the “death of print” impression is that it’s not true – at least not entirely. In fact, the most you can call it it is “true-ish,” meaning that while components of it are certainly spot on and accurate, the final conclusion skips a few too many logical steps to be considered completely sensible. So we can’t say for sure what the future of the magazine is. Nor should we, frankly, because too much ink and time has been spent on it already. Instead we will do this: Let’s take a brief look at what makes magazines so compelling to begin with.
They Are Easily Destroyed
Magazines are by their nature destructible. You can fold them and crush them and wet them and they will still be (mostly) intact. This makes them not only tools of learning, but also tools of countless other things that you might need them for. They are invariably the first things reached for when a spider appears, for example. You cannot deny their multiplicity of use.
There Are A Lot of Words in Them
Reading sucks. If you took the most boring thing imaginable and decided you wanted to make it worse, reading is likely what you would come up with. It’s also difficult. I don’t believe these things and, chances are, nor do you. Really, having a lot of words is what makes the magazine so compelling to begin with.
You Have to Wait For Them
Patience is under siege. If anything can really be said to be a victim of the Internet, it’s the age-old notion of waiting for something, of anticipating it. Modern communication is instantaneous and built on the notion that if someone is waiting, someone else is losing money. Waiting almost an archaic notion. With magazines, due not only to their publication schedules, but also to the realities of the postal system – waiting is the name of the game. The problem is no one likes waiting, and at a time when waiting for information is outdated, its no small wonder why people don’t subscribe to magazines.
But here’s what waiting does, and it is here that the Writer puts on his grandfather’s hat and says something pedagogic: “Waiting is one of the most important things about being human, son. Now go get me my Jay-Dee.”
They are Sold One at A Time
If 21st Century Patience was given a coffin mate, it would likely be the Average Attention Span. The chances of you finishing the a New York Times Magazine feature online decrease with each passing paragraph. It’s infinitely simple to get peeled away, to click over to another tab or check your email. The beauty of the magazine is that it is self-enclosed, bound and paginated and covered. Meaning that if you asked a person to read an article that appeared in both print and online, its far more likely that they would finish the printed version.
You Have To Pay for Them
Last I checked, capitalism worked like this: By buying something you are tacitly giving your approval of it and contributing towards its continuation. If thats the case, buying a magazine is the most important way to show how much you appreciate it. So, if you really, really appreciate the work of, say, Playboy, the best way to support the publication isn’t with your hand, but with your wallet. And that’s the truth.