AARP, myopia, & phonebooks

Reading some articles for another class:

“Magazines in the Age of Specialization,” by Campbell, Martin & Fabos (2006).

AARP Magazine is a leader of magazine circulation.  First reaction: wow. Second thoughts: not that surprising.  Boomers are the largest U.S. population subgroup, and the ranks grow by the day.  Plus the magazine is a really good read.  Pick one up from your elders.

What a great time for magazines, though.  A huge population group with the boomers, plus our generation stoking the fire like crazy.  The median age of magazine readers is younger than median age of U.S. adults over last five years.

The authors detail the downfall of Life, heavily attributing blame on it’s outrageous and out of touch advertising policies.  Something like $64,000 for a full-page ad forced would-be advertisers to choose between Life and TV.  Guess who won?

Life may have been too myopic. Instead of considering themselves a magazine, the people there needed to consider themselves an information distributor.  Take that ad clout and move it to TV so the advertisers don’t have to choose between the two. Create a Life network or partner up to form one.  Something.  I don’t know how profitable it is, but ESPN seems to have the right model: multiple TV channels, magazine, online, etc.

Stats in the article show ad content to magazine content as a 50/50 split. Fine by me.  I can skip print ads easily if I choose.  Television seems to have loud ads, annoying ads, stupid ads – anyone can get in front of a camera.  I like the visual design elements and the work it takes to create a slick, yet genuine (and effective) magazine advertisement.

“Why Should They Care? The Relationship of Academic Study to the Magazine Industry,” by Johnson (2007).

It’s encouraging that there is such a void of research out there.  What to do, what to explore first?  The authors inform us that there has been a negative stance on the plethora of job descriptors in the research field.

Why is it a bad thing that there are such varied backgrounds investigating magazines and their role?  Shouldn’t that create a richer picture more reflective of the whole on what role magazines have and how they affect us?

The authors plead to curtail the content analyses and focus more on the future of magazines instead of what has already happened.  I have a history minor, and I love knowing where we came from to put prospective on where we’re going.

But I really like the idea of us as journalists needing to be forward-looking.  Stop the word/picture count and extrapolate some figures.  Be bold.  If journalism is growing with trends in social media – the here and now and next – why can’t our research techniques, studies, and explorations also grow that way?

Johnson gives a few examples of papers that were “too applied” to be published.  Is that backward?  I have no clue what I want to research, but I’d rather be memorable, groundbreaking, and too applicable than count words and pictures.

“The Magazine as a Storehouse,” by Johnson & Prijatel (2007).

The idea of monitoring a story’s success online to feed new story proposals is fantastic, and we do it every day at the Missourian.

There was a quote in the article about balancing consistency and surprise to create a great publication.  That theory resonates with me.  It just makes sense.

“[Magazines] remind us that news, or information, is not necessarily understanding,” Sam Ferber said (in 1979).  That critical component is why magazines may survive longer than newspapers.  Not that newspapers don’t have a very important and prestigious place in our culture, but a longer form allows for reflection, digestion, and intelligent synthesis, where newspapers can sometimes be nothing more than facts.

A phonebook has facts too.

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One Response to AARP, myopia, & phonebooks

  1. Pingback: Step 1: Admitting you have a problem | It's the soup…

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