Friday, July 13, 2007

Why Print Really Could Die

Why Print Really Could Die
BY Rob Yoegel

For years now I’ve argued during conversations and at conferences that print magazines will never die and that as long as there’s good, compelling, original content, magazines will live happily every after alongside Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.8, etc. Now I’m not so sure.

The more I sit in on our annual publication meetings that involve most of our publishing teams, the more worried I’m getting. As citizen journalists/bloggers tout that they can get their content to more people and faster, traditional media counters with their accuracy, integrity and proper grammar. But what are we doing about the time it takes to publish in print today?

Editorial Calendars
It’s alarming to me that editorial calendars are still a significant part of a trade magazine’s plans. Yes, I know advertising reps need to be able to go on calls and point out certain issues that will cover topics of interest to a potential advertiser, but I’m perplexed as to why the goal wouldn’t be to get that advertiser into each and every issue?

Today is July 13, 2007. An editor-in-chief is busy crafting an editorial calendar to impress a publisher that details stories and special sections up to 16 months away (of course, he could be blogging instead)! Technology has brought on rapid changes that are not affecting just certain markets. I propose the end of a 12-month editorial calendar and recommend that editorial calendars be scrapped altogether, be done seasonally, or — at most — six months in advance.

Circulation Audits
Ripe for my next criticism are circulation audits. I’m only familiar with BPA and admitedly what I know is based only on what I’m told by collegues or read and hear about. That said, I’m still unaware of any initiative to help print publishers obtain and “qualify” a subscriber within one week or, better yet, days of someone saying, “Yes, I want your magazine!”

One publisher recently rolled her eyes during a meeting when a similar topic was discussed saying, “We all know how long it takes,” referring to BPA audit periods. It’s nuts that trade magazines that apparently rely so heavily on an audit to sell advertising deal with folks like BPA that make it expensive, difficult or impossible to be more productive and likely more successful.

Production & Printing
Monthly print production and ad closing schedules remain absurd. Let’s take, for example an October issue of your magazine. How is a deadline to know all of the advertising and editorial that will be included six weeks in advance acceptable? Paper layouts and impositions should not be used, art directors should not need a week to lay out a magazine, and magazine printers that are consolidating and going out of business must work harder to get issues to the postal service.

And how could I finish without mentioning the USPS, which more and more seems to me that it doesn’t want business. When my son or daughter ask me why it costs the same to mail a birthday invitation to the kid down the street as it does to send a letter to Uncle Howie in California, I change the subject to the “birds and the bees.” At least I understand that better.