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Why Magazines Won’t Die

I spend more time than most thinking about whether or not magazines will live or die, since my family and I own a few of them. I’ve been to conferences about whether or not they will survive. I am barraged by consultants trying to convince me magazines are on the verge of death, and therefore I need their services immediately, or else.

Now, I do think e-readers and Kindles and iPhones will, and to a degree already have, subsumed much of our reading and especially information needs. And Rodale Inc. is in the game with those things along with everyone else.

But speaking from personal experience, I’ve noticed something lately. The more I use technology (and I am on this damn computer a lot…too much), the more I want to read a magazine. But I want different things than I wanted five years ago. Frankly, I want a break. I want to be surprised and delighted. I want to relax and not have to decide which page I’m going to next. I want to look at pictures. I want to sit back on my couch and not have a glowing screen staring me in the eyes. I want to be inspired. It’s kind of like going on a great date, only I don’t have to get dressed up.

It started with my new all-time favorite magazine, Garden and Gun. When I heard about it at a magazine conference, I thought it was a joke. I picked up a copy just for fun and found myself completely and utterly hooked. It’s kind of a Southern lifestyle magazine. I’m not Southern, nor do I aspire to be. But they have gotten it right. They show me and tell me about stuff I would never think to look for myself. They take me to places in their pictures that I will never get to but so enjoy looking at. I’ve turned down the corners of many a page after finding places I want to visit, books I want to buy, or stores I want to shop from (online). There is an open copy of Garden and Gun sitting right by my computer right now. I’m going to book a room at a hotel I learned about from a page in the magazine. (And I’m not going to tell you which one because I want to make sure I can get a reservation first!)

Then there is People magazine. I’m too busy to check the celebrity websites every day. And I don’t care enough to seek out that information (although I must confess to being fascinated by all the adultery stories of people like Tiger Woods and that governor with the Brazilian mistress). When my People magazine comes on Friday, I sit down and don’t want to be bothered by anyone for the half hour it takes me to read it. That’s my time, and don’t forget it!

If I really want to learn about what’s going on in the world, well, actually, I listen to the radio—NPR and BBC Newshour. But I only listen in the car, and it’s not a consistent thing. So I back it up with a subscription to the Economist and the New York Review of Books. Those magazines help me fill in the blanks—or better yet, they teach me about things I didn’t think I wanted, or needed, to know about.

The Internet is a technology that enables people to go out in SEARCH of things. I’m all for that and love it to pieces. But sometimes, I just want things to FIND me. Sometimes, I am just tired of looking and typing and seeking, and I just want to sit on my comfortable couch and be surprised when I turn the page.

That’s why I believe magazines won’t die.

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23 Responses to Why Magazines Won’t Die

  1. Dana B. December 9, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    Maria, thank you so much for your perspective on this!

    As an aspiring journalist preparing to enter the industry an uncertain time, it’s relieving (and sadly surprising) to hear optimism.

    As a reader and long time magazine lover, I couldn’t agree with you more. There’s a special relationship created between your fingers, your mind and the glossy pages when you let yourself wander through a good magazine.

    I especially like your phrasing with searching on the internet verses magazine stories finding you. We have so much research capability with the internet that I think we’ve forgotten how great that feeling is to have your attention caught and to hold on for a compelling story you’d otherwise not seek out.

  2. Brittany December 9, 2009 at 10:44 am #

    I agree, after spending 10 hours a day on the computer all I want to do is read something tangible and offline. And, when going to the gym magazines are my primary motivation.

    Also, there’s something about flipping through glossy pages that is unbeatable.

  3. Donna in Delaware December 9, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    I gave my computer to my mother in October so that she could do work for her church on it. It has freed up my days plenty. If it were not for my husband, I would not be on this darn thing AT ALL. When I dodn’t want to buy a magazine or subscribe to one (which I will do every few years) I go to Barnes & Nobles and have tea, eat my sandwich, and read, read, read. I absolutely get lost in the place at least once a week. I need books and magazine to help to complete my life. There is just something about having one in your hands.

    Like Maria, I listen to NPR in the morning and then watch BBC in the evening to catch up on the day’s and world news. CNN just doesn’t do it for me anymore. They are becoming quite lame and it seems that everything is funny to them. I had been subscribing to The Economist for years and you can’t beat them. So I don’t think that I want another computer, when need be, I’ll use my husband’s laptop, like I a doing now.

  4. Sue December 9, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    Yes Maria! I am so on board with magazines. Nothing like curling up with my Marie Claire and Oprah on a rainy Sunday afternoon in front of the fire. Can’t imagine curling up to a Kindle!

  5. June December 9, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    We all have our favorites, and flipping pages can’t be replaced by computer graphics.
    Whether I’m on a train, plane, sitting at a beach or pool on vacation…magazines definitely fit the bill for reading. Books are nice too, but I’d truly miss the shorter term satisfaction of a good magazine article and photo spread. A few of my mags can be read almost exclusively online, but I have limited patience for the glowing screen.

  6. Heather December 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm #

    My favorite for years was Victoria and I was never happier than when they started publishing again, not to mention delivering overseas. It’s a treat when it comes – I get my tea and a quiet corner and unless there’s blood involved, NO ONE had better bother mommy then.

  7. Jennifer December 9, 2009 at 2:29 pm #

    I just might die w/o magazines, lol! They are a treat for me, my own personal splurge. I covet them and when they arrive in the mail I seek refuge from the chaos of my home to flip through them and I SOAK up the pictures whether fitness, cooking or celeb’s! Plus what would we do when we fly or sit by the pool on vacation?
    I love my Kindle, but that is different. I can fit 4 magazines in my carry-on, I am not likely to carry 4 books with me anywhere. And Magazines are textural and visual; a Kindle can’t give me that.

  8. Melissa in Ontario December 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm #

    I would prefer reading magazines over the online columns any day. I sometimes read my favorite magazines at my desk at work, especially on a slow day. (Don’t tell my boss!)

  9. Donna in Delaware December 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    Oh boy HEATHER, thanks! I had no Idea that Victoria was in print again. I loved that magazine because I am an Anglophile at heart. I am so thrilled!
    I was very sorry when it went out of print. I still have old issues and some pages of recipes torn from them.. I’ll look for it in Barnes & Nobles.
    Thanks again.

  10. Mary Ann December 9, 2009 at 5:31 pm #

    I hope magazines never die. Aside from being my livelyhood (I am a print media buyer who buys advertising space primarily in magazines) I can’t imagine not having a magazine around. I subscribe to many and receive many “complementary” issues at my place of business. I love books, but I especially love scanning through a magazine curled up on the couch. As you and others mentioned, it’s the stories and articles that find you that makes them special.

  11. Joyce December 9, 2009 at 9:04 pm #

    I too am a Garden & Gun fan. It is a magical trip to a kind of place that only a magazine can take you. I fondly remember McCall magazine when I was young. I looked forward to the next issue for the Betsy McCall cutout doll series. There are just some things that technology can not replace!

  12. Eileen December 9, 2009 at 11:59 pm #

    No matter how much technology I use for many things in my life, I don’t know that I will ever stop enjoying reading hard copies for news and entertainment. I don’t know how the generation after ours will feel, but as a 40 something…closer to 50 than not…I do enjoy my newspaper and magazines.

  13. Sandy December 10, 2009 at 12:27 am #

    I found this website and then this article on magazines . I so miss Rodale’s Organic Style. I kept a few of the last issues and still find them inspiring and up-to -date. I don’t know of any magazine today quite like it.

  14. Tony Case December 10, 2009 at 3:01 am #

    Thanks as always for the perspective, Maria. And from the looks of the ample responses to this post, magazines have a lot of fans indeed … boding well for a prosperous 2010, eh?? (Fingers crossed! I am sick to death of covering all this DEPRESSING media news!) Happy holidays!

  15. Brian December 10, 2009 at 9:06 am #

    Hi – I do agree, but only to a small degree. Don’t take this the wrong way but your comments are based on the point of view of someone in their ??’s. So, I say correct mags won’t die – yet. Once folks from lets say 50 on die off ( I know that sound morbid but its a fact) their habits, their way of life and reading mags will die with them. For younger America,(and I mean up to and including mid 30’s if not older) taking a break from the computer or iPone, or whichever devise they have attached to their body is not needed-its all they know, its a way of life. I do see 15-20 years down the road when reading magazine and newspapers will be a thing of the past. Its evolution and you can’t stop it, you can only adapt to it.

  16. Jessi Lynn December 10, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    I am totally on your bus with this blog!

  17. Jessi Lynn December 10, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    post, rather. 🙂

  18. Lori December 10, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    I have to agree 100%. I am on the computer all day long, the last thing I want to do is get on it (for anything) during off hours.

  19. Tina December 10, 2009 at 3:29 pm #

    With a toddler son, finding time to be on the computer (like now!) is a luxury. Reading a novel is even more difficult. But, I can often find 5 or 10 minutes here and there to read a magazine article or two. No outlet necessary, completely portable, no buttons for my son to press, and information is given in short, precise bites so it doesn’t matter if I don’t pick up that magazine again for another day or two. I love magazines!

  20. maria December 10, 2009 at 3:43 pm #

    Hi Brian,

    My 12 year old is on the kindle, computer and watching TV when she’s not playing Wii, but man — she loves her celebrity gossip magazines and her walls are plastered with their posters.

    I may be old but I aint’ dead yet!!!!

    Maria (from the farm country kitchen!)

  21. Wil December 11, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    Everywhere one looks today is talk of the web. Compare that bloat of chatter to any of the recent boom and busts and you’ll see this web craze is just a bubble. I have never known anyone to purchase a product by clicking on a pop-up internet ad, have you? I am not talking about going to a site to make a purchase. This is about magazines.

    If magazines are written FOR their readers benefit, and not as a conduit for advertising, they will survive. It is unfortunate that ad agencies used the threat of ‘web clicks’ as leverage to devalue magazine ad space rates. However, magazines were not at the ready with a solid quantifiable way to ‘count’ reader eyeballs viewing ads.

    Bottom line, there is nothing close to the color, clarity, transportability, and durability of a magazine. We’ll see if the marketers can mask these quailities when touting the electro-books.

  22. Stan December 6, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    I somewhat agree however whats to say turning the page on your iPad won’t suprise you. eMagazines will replace paper ones.

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