I guess everyone is entitled to a perspective - however Bruce completely fails to recognize that the web offers quality timely information that is impossible to deliver in magazine form - it is not either or - the web complements other media including magazines and provides an incredible resource linking communities and allowing them to interact with editors, vendors and their peers - the claim of meritocracy is arrogant and fails to appreciate that there is huge talent in special interest communities - and the members are willing to share their knowledge. A great editor is a wonderful guide but not the font of all wisdom. I'm guessing that Bruce is at least 50 !
Guest Commentary, by Bruce Sheiman:
UNDERSTANDING THE MAGAZINE/WEB EXPERIENCE: A MANIFESTO
By Bruce Sheiman
The World Wide Web has been with us for more than a decade. And the Web is, without question, a major development in the evolution of consumer media. The introduction of every new medium of necessity requires us to reevaluate the relevance, significance, and purpose of magazines.
My approach to magazines is as much as an anthropologist as it is a strategic think*er. And with that understanding, I believe that magazines are much more than the generic conveyance of information. The intrinsic qualities of a magazine make possible a valuable consumer experience that cannot be replicated by any other medium.
In fact, it is the very nature of the Web--an amorphous mass of information that is fragmented, overwhelming, and unfathomable--that makes a well-edited magazine more valuable than ever. Here are six reasons why:
1. An Information Meritocracy. The Web is an information democracy: just about anything is available to everyone. By definition, however, a magazine is a meritocracy: optimally selecting, discriminating, distilling, interpreting, organizing, prioritizing, enhancing, and synthesizing information to provide maximum value to readers.
2. A "Find Engine." The best that the Web can offer information seekers is a search engine--with millions of tabulated results. A well-edited magazine, however, is a find engine. Less becomes more; a magazine's editorial process transforms an expansive mass of information into intelligence, insight, and knowledge. A search engine is not an "editor."
3. Reader Involvement. Consumers surf the Web: superficially skating on the surface of a diffuse ocean. Consumers read magazines: deeply immersing themselves in a specific subject.
Magazines are the original interactive medium. People have an I-Thou relationship with magazines. People interact with magazines in ways similar to how they relate to each other--as friends and companions. A magazine invites readers into an intimate and long-term relationship. In contrast, the Web offers consumers an endless series of one-night stands.
4. Clearing Up What Once Was Cloudy. The more information choices consumers have, the greater the need for the focus and guidance that a magazine provides. A magazine can be a capstone medium--bringing together information from myriad sources, cutting through the clutter, and concentrating reader attention on the most important considerations. If the Web is a corpus of information, a well-edited magazine is its soul.
5. Affirming the Reader's Identity. Magazines have the unique ability to help crystallize, articulate, and reinforce a person's identity. Although much has been made of the way magazines are used to convey an image to others, little acknowledged is the way readers use magazines to affirm their self-perception. To a great extent, readers look to magazines to help define themselves.
For example, a business person's identity is affirmed by reading BusinessWeek or Fortune; an affluent person's identity is affirmed by reading Architectural Digest or Travel + Leisure; a health-conscious person's identity is affirmed by reading Prevention or Shape. Unlike any other medium, magazines give concrete expression to readers' hopes and aspirations.
6. A Magazine's Compatibility. A preference for magazines is not the archaic legacy of aging readers. No matter how high-tech a new generation of parents or children becomes, people will always have the same physical and experiential relationship with a medium's format.
Screen reading is chaotic and desultory, ephemeral and tangential. Reading a magazine is relaxing and comforting. It engenders in readers a sense of confidence and control.
These subtle psychological dimensions transcend a magazine's physicality and encompass its essence. Certainly, publishers must take advantage of new information media. At the same time, however, we should acknowledge and appreciate the inherent benefits that make a magazine a magazine. Magazines represent a unique confluence of reader experiences--a gestalt that has no other media substitute.
Bruce Sheiman spent 13 years with The Jordan, Edmiston Group, where he received his "Ph.D." in magazine publishing. He is currently developing a new consumer magazine devoted to higher education.