May 3, 2013

"My own view is that one particular form of journalism is actually dying because of this technological shift – and it’s magazines, not blogs."

Says Andrew Sullivan (who recently left the Atlantic.com to become independent):
When every page in a magazine can be detached from the others, when readers rarely absorb a coherent assemblage of writers in a bound paper publication, but pick and choose whom to read online where individual stories and posts overwhelm any single collective form of content, the magazine as we have long known it is effectively over.

Without paper and staples, it doesn’t fall apart so much as explodes into many pieces hurtling into the broader web. Where these pieces come from doesn’t matter much to the reader. So what’s taking the place of magazines are blog-hubs or group-blogs with more links, bigger and bigger ambitions and lower costs. Or aggregated bloggers/writers/galley slave curators designed by “magazines” to be sold in themed chunks. That’s why the Atlantic.com began as a collection of bloggers and swiftly turned them all into chopped up advertizing-geared “channels.” That form of online magazine has nothing to do with its writing as such or its writers; it’s a way to use writers to procure money from corporations. And those channels now include direct corporate-written ad copy, designed to look as much like the actual “magazine” as modesty allows.

40 comments:

Nonapod said...

So in other words, people no longer have to wade through stuff that's been preassembled for their consumption, but can now pick and choose a la carte. This is only a good thing.

traditionalguy said...

Sullivan nails it. Never thought I would say that.

Mark said...

When Sullivan thinks with his upper head he's smart and articulate. When he's letting his crush on a politician lead the way, not so much.

rhhardin said...

"When every page in a magazine can be detached from the others, when readers rarely absorb a coherent assemblage of writers in a bound paper publication, but pick and choose whom to read online where individual stories and posts overwhelm any single collective form of content, the magazine as we have long known it is effectively over."

Find the verb.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Doesn't anyone else read in places where there is no Wi-Fi?

I read several magazines cover-to-cover every month in the pickup line at my kids' schools.

caplight45 said...

rhhardin: the verb is, "is."

caplight45 said...

As long-time subscriber to the Atlantic (20 years or so)I confess that I enjoy reading that particular periodical in hard copy. The articles are often too lengthy and often thought provoking for computer (netbook in my case) reading for me. I am always backed up an issue or two and try to catch up when I travel. The Atlantic on line is a whole different creature to me.

And I miss Christopher Hitchens, especially his book reviews.

Marshal said...

Some magazines that successfully brand themselves as markers of excellence will survive. Without the imprimatur of The New Republic Sullivan wouldn't have the readership he does. It's hard for writers to develop from scratch the reputation that pulls in readers consistently. I see magazines as training grounds that the star writers can move on from.

But he's right that at the end of the next decade there are going to be a lot fewer magazines and the market relationship between writers and magazine is going to be much different.

Titus said...

The guy is an amazing writer and smart as shit.

tits.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Now would be a good time to invest in hardcopies of Lapham's Quarterly.

Kirk Parker said...

"It's hard for writers to develop from scratch the reputation that pulls in readers consistently."

Richard Fernandez certainly did! Althouse, too, though in her case it was as much for her ability to assemble a wonderful group in her virtual salon as it was purely her writing skills (not to take away from the latter, mind you.)

Shanna said...

rhhardin: the verb is, "is."

Heh. Rhhardin needs to go back to diagraming school. (that sentence did have a hell of a lot of clauses).

Leland said...

Stolen cheese found.

Donald Douglas said...

I just blogged Andrew "RawMuscleGlutes" yesterday! See: 'Reports on the Death of Blogs Have Been Greatly Exaggerated'.

Lem said...

More jargon please.

SteveR said...

Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in awhile

Patrick said...

It's like the whole internet is one big magazine. The various blogs act like the table of contents and index is google.

kcom said...

What about an insane squirrel?

creeley23 said...

Sullivan's right here, though it's not a particularly deep thought.

We've already seen the demise of the music LP, then CD, as the MP3 revolution shattered them into constituent songs to be reassembled into listeners' MP3 players.

The era of the concept album is over.

Jay said...

Speaking of dying:

The Washington Post Co. reported an 85 percent drop in earnings, although profits from continuing operations fell by 55 percent while revenue inched up slightly.

Amartel said...

What was your first clew, Andrew? Was it the big pile of dead and dying print media?

Marshal said...

Kirk Parker said...
Richard Fernandez certainly did! Althouse, too, though in her case it was as much for her ability to assemble a wonderful group in her virtual salon as it was purely her writing skills (not to take away from the latter, mind you.)


Well, difficult is not impossible.

Mostly though I think it's harder now. The early ethos of blogging included an effort to reach out to new bloggers and push people to multiple sites. It seems to me the current practice is much more about a few larger blogs (many group) interacting with webzine group blogs.

I think that's natural as the product matures, but it does change things.

chrisnavin.com said...

Sullivan has seen this coming for a while now. The online magazines are profitable only with all that paid content advertising.

He does have incentive to promote, and proselytize, his own venture, so that's worth bearing in mind, too. He's good at self-promotion.

I do wish him well in trying to build a platform for good writers, aspiring long-form journalism and investigative work.

After fully embracing a worldview based on semi-paranoid projection and as Hitchens put it 'buggery,' I find I can't support him however, even if parts of his project I find worthwhile.

'Obama is the true conservative.' Riiiight.

Rusty said...

Jay said...
Speaking of dying:

The Washington Post Co. reported an 85 percent drop in earnings, although profits from continuing operations fell by 55 percent while revenue inched up slightly.


With writers like Eugene- whats his name ,and Dione-sounds like a basketball player, this is surprising?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Titus said...

The guy is an amazing writer and smart as shit.

I agree with the smart as shit assessment, but based on your long-ago postings I suspect I do not hold shit in as high regard as you do.

Birches said...

Truth.

I dropped my subscription to SI a month back, even though I used to read it religiously, cover to cover every week.

Quality was way down. Their better writers are all leaving them for "other projects" (not print media).

Even though I hate Bill Simmons, I find I actually go to Grantland for good sports writing.

Chip Ahoy said...

Sunset magazine came again curled in my mailbox, yay! I thumbed through to a card to a card to a card to a card to directly into the trash, I have no idea what it said but I guarantee I could have written the thing myself.

I have a gift subscription to Sunset, the only magazine remaining. They're bullshit. All of them are. I should call them an tell them to stop it. Magazines are for the distribution of dropout cards. Magazines are for stapled insert porpoises. Magazines are for chopping a story into pieces and spreading it across four to six pages of advertisement. I invite Sunset to suck my paletta.

Mitch H. said...

Didn't this pissy bitch get 'canned from first, the Atlantic, and more recently, the Daily Beast? No, it isn't because he's a deranged drama queen with a repulsive array of bigoted tics that have displaced all original thought or logic, it *must* be that his scintillating repartee can't be successfully packaged as the cheese and meat content wedged between corporate advertising bread.

Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in awhile

But more often he finds an acorn-shaped bit of sandstone and breaks his teeth trying to get into the sedimentary meat.

tangurena said...

And those channels now include direct corporate-written ad copy, designed to look as much like the actual “magazine” as modesty allows.
When I saw this passage, I immediately thought of Paul Graham's essay The Submarine. An essay he wrote 8 years ago and others are still discovering.

Bruce Hayden said...

The one magazine that may almost still be worth it to buy is "The Economist". My father still gets it, and I will often get stacks of his month old copies, and read them almost cover to cover. Partly, it is that there is so much content, and partly that if you read it through, cover to cover, on a fairly regular basis, you get a decent view of what is happening of note in the 160 or so countries in the world. So many countries that I sometimes need a map (which they sometimes provide) to actually see what they are talking about. And, they maybe seem to be slightly cooling from their AGW fanaticism. Plus a view of the U.S. from across the pond is always interesting.

The only other magazines that I ever really read at all are professional - legal and engineering. More the latter these days, as I tire of the "Women in Law", "Blacks in Law", "Hispanics in Law", etc. concentration, esp. with the bar where I don't have a choice. Rather not read an entire issue devoted to Women and Violence, which, of course, studiously ignores that women are as about as likely to physically (and much more likely to verbally) abuse their spouses or partners.

edutcher said...

Egon Spengler:

"Print is dead".

Actually, Andy does the Stopped Clock thing quite well.

Next up, the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, Roman, nor an Empire.

Discuss.

sydney said...

So now we know. Titus is Andrew Sullivan.

Carol said...

Magazines are "dead," yet plenty of web sites still use mag-style layout clich├ęs like huge heading fonts and stock photos that hurt my eyes they're so fucking big.

A web site is not a magazine. Or a brochure, for that matter.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Jeez. My immediate reaction to the quoted text is that "Holy shit, Sullivan's writing has sure deteriorated."

KenK said...

That's a feature Mr. Sullivan, not a bug. I love the fact I can pick and choose now. Wish cable was like that too.

bgates said...

aggregated bloggers/writers/galley slave curators...a way to use writers to procure money...

"By the way, I'll be in P-Town for the next month, but if you want to help me raise a hundred thousand dollars for 'bandwidth' one of my fabulous guest internbloggers will be here to cash the check."

AprilApple said...

Journalism is dead because it's now all agenda and opinion masquerading as news.

St. George said...

Throughout history the invention of new media forms does not destroy the old ones. Instead it causes the older media forms to morph in response to the challenge.

For example, Hollywood lured audiences with 3D movies and Cinerama to get people away from TVs. AM radio responded to FM's better sound quality by morphing into talk radio.

Something similar is happening with print and will continue to happen. Magazine subscriptions will be bundled with internet access packages. Etc.

Sam L. said...

I get a number of magazines each month. There's only so much time I can stand sitting at the computer.

Bender said...

It isn't the format of hardcopy magazines and newspapers that killed them, it is the price and the political bias.