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.