For some time now I have been trying to express in specific terms my general feeling that publishing… magazine publishing in particular… is in crisis. It’s no secret that massive disruption in technology over the past decade has shaken the industry to its core, but for all the debate over how to best navigate this change surprisingly little has been solidified (at least in my head) with regard to what magazines will look like ten, twenty or fifty years down the line.
And then today… while reading this piece by Robert Young… I had a moment of clarity. Young’s piece deals with the importance of communication in the social network space (Myspace, Flickr, etc) and as I read it that word… communication… spoke to me. THAT is what magazines need to do… stop thinking in terms of publishing content and start thinking in terms of fostering communication.
For the most part magazines have been looking at the technological landscape and trying to superimpose their traditional publishing model onto it. Rather than understanding and taking advantage of how changes in technology empower people to be their own editors and information gatherers most publishers have simply “repurposed” content to emerging media. Same data, new wrapper.
Producers of magazines need to start thinking more like software developers and less like traditional publishers. If a magazine is to stay relevant to the community it serves it must give its readers tools to successfully and productively navigate the information landscape. Applications that engage readers and foster their participation in the overall community will go much further in the evolving technological environment than the standard authoritative model.
By expanding their operations beyond the one way street model of traditional publishing and embracing the back and forth nature of a communications model magazines can build on their privileged spot atop niche communities and stay relevant into the future.