Dear Publishing Industry,
You’re screwed, and everyone knows it – especially since you whine and moan about it on what seems like a daily basis via the very pulpits you are trying to protect. Crying over spilled milk doesn’t help anyone, and will likely only exacerbate the situation, regardless of Old World medium: newspapers, book publishers, and magazines
. For the sake of simplicity, the Internet is assumed to not exist.
Despite being a minimum of twelve hours behind other media outlets, you continue to claim to be the only source of “true journalism” – while devoting days of front page coverage to Michael Jackson, publishing barely-modified Press Releases as news, and taking an ever increasing number of stories from wire services. Does that really sound like valuable, source-verified, original journalism?
Whining about personal problems (i.e. decline in sales) via the same journalistic channels that purportedly carry important, topical news pieces is not helping your argument. The value of newspaper-based journalism is not in “Breaking News” stories, but rather in-depth investigative pieces or complex works that can take months of traveling and significant capital to produce. The average, non-investigative article in a newspaper does not include enough room for a thoughtful analysis, and such works are better left to those with more time and space to do them properly.
Furthermore, the inexplicable coverage of nonsense over true news, such as celebrity drama instead of attempted healthcare reform, is disgusting. You’re contributing to the dumbing-down of a culture that doesn’t need any extra help, when, only twenty years ago, newspapers were once revered for their intelligent and thought-provoking insights.
You’re an industry rotting from the inside because of overreacting to your audience. If you need proof of this, look into the saturation of the “Fantasy” market with hugely drawn-out “epic” multivolume series about people with swords and magic, most of which are the same book written by different authors – Lord of the Rings can only be reproduced so many times. Or the rampant existence of softcore porn fiction masquerading as “Horror”, or occasionally even “Fantasy”, using vampires and werewolves to get unsuspecting readers to purchase such idiotic literary filth – the Twilight and Anita Blake series are perfect examples.
“Science Fiction” readers, who are some of the most devoted consumers, are currently being shunned for more trendy genres, with only a handful of actual “SciFi” novels being published each year – Tor-Forge, a major publisher, is an exception. Even the best of “SciFi” is being labeled as “Thriller” or other more profit-friendly genres, based off of a core genre misconception.
Additionally, you continue to pump out cook books, celebrity novels, and other trend-hopping tomes. The following of fads inevitably results in market over-saturation, excess stock, and, in the end, smaller profits than if books were published in an intelligent fashion. Quotas for genres should be turned into an intelligent review process, where only interesting, smart, and original (or at least semi-original) material is published – does the world really need another Harry Potter clone?
GQ? Vogue? Teen Girl? Us Magazine? These are magazines in only the vaguest sense of the word, and are more akin to tabloids than anything else. TIME, Newsweek, and US Weekly are newspapers parading as magazines – while these publications are to be applauded for their significant, in-depth analysis and extreme feats of journalism, they largely chase the stories-of-the-moment which have already been covered elsewhere by faster outlets. If these were to be instead published monthly, at four times the length with a wider range of interests, the value would increase significantly – as would subscribers. Readers are not interested in the crazy-talk of extreme feminists or angry nonsensical “Tea Baggers”, but intelligent, coherent articles.
Other publications like WIRED and Popular Science have found a formula that works well: discover/create a niche market, and cater to it endlessly. Neither magazine deviates from this formula, and they typically stay within their audience parameters, although WIRED does occasionally produce some boring pieces. If the rest of the magazine market were to follow the leads of Popular Science, instead of continuing to rely on now-failing Old World principles, they could potentially be rejuvenated in the eyes of the reading public.
As a dying industry with many faces, and many problems, you will need to reinvent yourself and some of your practices in order to survive. Clinging to methods and ideologies that worked a decade ago is counter-productive – just ask the GOP how they’re doing at the moment. The readers across the world do not wish to see you fade from existence, but rather adapt to a more modern existence, since there is a benefit to each platform from which you operate.
Kyle Brady, avid magazine and book reader
Love it, love it, love it. This kid rocks.