December 27, 2013

What is the future of print fashion magazines?

Ah, digital and print media. It is becoming a very strange relationship indeed.

No one is entirely sure what the ‘future of print media’ really is but all we know is it’s becoming a lot more difficult to part ways with our money to buy a magazine, only to flip through pages of information that we can get for free on Google or blogs. I’ve spoke a lot in the past about my interest in the evolution of media and in particular my advocation of the ‘paywall’. Print is dying, but why should the companies who distribute our content have to suffer? Today I want to discuss the print magazine industry, and in particular – women’s fashion magazines. What is the future of them, and why is the print side of things drying up so badly? 

Print and digital technology doesn’t go hand in hand quite like people expect it too. You cannot read a print magazine and hold your iPhone at the same time. You can quite easily start a company now using solely digital means, but if you are a print business, you are more likely to need a digital presence to sustain yourself. Magazines and tech don’t go together like Twitter and TV – the golden social media couple – you can’t do them at the same time. With Twitter and TV, doing each on their own is fun enough, but the two together is addictive and like one big social tea party. You are both alone and together simultaneously. Reading a magazine whilst watching TV is an absolute nightmare – you’ll miss the best bits of both.

This is what fascinates me about magazines. We still love them dearly, but they are having an identity crisis. A print magazine cannot be social. It cannot move or be interactive. But – the print magazines have such an opportunity to relaunch themselves. Where is the social element to their online presence? Where is their revamped website? Where is the joint conversation? Where are the readers going? Why aren’t the editors leading their readership to exciting social/digital content? They should be the ring leaders rather than the ones who just have to talk about what the Internet is doing.

companysocWhen I saw Company’s Social (media) Issue, I thought they had taken this great leap forward. But it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

I don’t know if you’ve dipped into the issue, but it’s not really a social issue. It doesn’t live on social media: it’s bizarrely just print magazine talking about social.

I totally understand the principle of it: reading a magazine that has been around for ages that we know and love, and get to dip into our favourite parts of the web on paper. But the thing is, it doesn’t quite work. There is no way that we can have a seamless experience reading the magazine when we pause every 2 minutes to awkwardly type in a bit.ly link URL off a piece of print. It ruins the experience and makes it all a bit disjointed. Am I reading a magazine in front of an open fire? Or am I reading a magazine that highlights how much I am missing out on what’s happening online? Why don’t I just log into YouTube and the search engine will give me everything I need to fill this spare hour, plus more? You see, this magazine isn’t really catering for me and YouTube knows me: my hair colour, my hobbies, my dislikes, my friends, my interests. If it’s a choice between the two of where to spend my valuable time, then it’s becoming an easier one to make.

Print magazines do have a place in my heart. The thing is, I don’t want them to show me the best ‘Instagram likes’ of the week, because I’ve always seen them: on Instagram. I also don’t want them to hero the best ‘Vloggers of the Week’ because this not tangible, I cannot understand how amazing their vlogging careers are on a static page. I want a magazine to keep me interested – to give me amazing can’t-put-it-down-articles. I want to feel I have paid for something. I love social media but good lord I miss READING things that aren’t the length of a status update. I want to dive in to an article that doesn’t require the commitment of a book, but enough to let me finish my cup of tea with a good old read. I also want to look at amazing pictures. I have approximately 50 favourited blogs that I scroll through every month, so if I am going to buy your print magazine please give me exclusive content, no bad pictures or loads of adverts. (Why don’t the magazines increase their website advertising so that we can enjoy the print issue a bit more?) Anyway, I don’t want bits and bobs on a page. I’ve got a Pinterest board for that.

This is where I think there that the only real connection still standing, between social media and print is ‘status’ meets social‘popularity’. The print magazine has the status (the name, the glory, the glamour) but the social media starts (YouTube vloggers) have the popularity. They have the viewers, they have the numbers of subscribers that print magazines can only dream of. The thing is, if the magazine wants a piece of the pie – they have to earn it too. They have to be content creators, and they have to be SOCIAL by nature. Having guest YouTubers on your own magazine YouTube channel isn’t really the answer because people are more interested in the vloggers own channel. They might dip in to the magazine’s channel but why would they suscribe if there’s no regular feature? Having a witty Twitter feed just won’t cut it. Neither will behind the scenes shaky footage of your team members rifling through a clothes rail.

An online magazine (or website for women) that I’ve been following since it’s launch is The Conversation by Amanda De Cadenet – who gets this mix absolutely spot on. If it was print, it would be awesome too – but as a bonus. I’d buy a book of all the celebrity interviews and articles but it’s the level of online interactivity that makes it something I want to bookmark and come back for more. Amanda is the editor in chief and she uploads little videos every now and again to get readers thinking. There are different sections for everyone,  regular writers and guest editors. It’s a modern day magazine but it’s social by nature, everyone can get involved. It’s not just for looking at, but for being a part of. In my opinion, magazine’s that just want to broadcast are on the way to the skip.

If magazines (digital and print) want to rise to the social media game, they can’t just take part, they have to play it too and create their own unmissable content. I think it is an end of an era….but an exciting moment in media history.

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