Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for March 28th, 2007

The Web as afterlife

Posted by metaphorical on 28 March 2007

Just to follow up on the previous post, while Life closed its doors, an increasing number of publications, from a variety of publishing niches, have closed down their print operations but are continuing on the Web. The four here come from the computer trade press, teen, entertainment, and women’s markets. You wouldn’t get a better spread throwing darts at a board blindfolded.

InfoWorld

On26 March 2007 InfoWorld reported about itself that

InfoWorld folds print mag to focus on online and events

Yes, the rumors are true. As of April 2, 2007, InfoWorld is discontinuing its print component. No more printing on dead trees, no more glossy covers, no more supporting the US Post Office in its rush to get thousands of inky copies on subscribers’ desks by Monday morning (or thereabouts). The issue that many of you will receive in your physical mailbox next week — vol. 29, issue 14 — will be the last one in InfoWorld’s storied 29-year history.

ELLEgirl
Premiere

On 28 March 2007 The Wall Street Journal reported on that

Under Jack Kliger, a magazine-industry veteran, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. has turned two of its titles — ELLEgirl and the U.S. print edition of Premiere — into Internet-only outlets, their print editions shuttered. Both decisions reflected industry trends: Ad pages for Premiere were down nearly 25% in 2006, according to Publishers Information Bureau. While ELLEgirl’s ad performance was more robust, Hachette knew the long-term future of the magazine was clouded by how teenage girls use media. Mr. Kliger says ELLEgirl’s teen audience gets more of its information from computers and cellphones than it does from traditional magazines. What remains to be seen is if Web versions of magazines carry the same heft and authority as their print counterparts.

Child

NY Times reported on 28 March 2007 that

The Meredith Corporation, a book and magazine publisher, said yesterday that Child magazine would be printed for the last time this spring, although the magazine’s Web site will continue to post original content. The company announced the move as part of a broader restructuring that will eliminate 60 jobs, 30 of them at Child.

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The theory of Life

Posted by metaphorical on 28 March 2007

Life Magazine is dead—again. The magazine that is. In a memo to all Time Inc staff, CEO Ann Moore said on Monday, “I regret to inform you that we will no longer be producing LIFE magazine, effective with the April 20th 2007 issue.” The NY Times reported:

This time, the magazine’s demise looks permanent, largely because Life is moving its huge archive of photographs onto the Web, where consumers will be able to download them free.  

The magazine once featured the work of some of the world’s greatest photographers. In its current incarnation, it has dwindled to 20 pages of mostly celebrity interviews and homemaking tips. The last issue will be April 20.

The Times article offered an analysis which basically argues that Life, the #3 newspaper supplement, failed because it wouldn’t emulate the category’s #1, Parade, and #2, USA Weekend; it had an idea to be a different sort of publication from them, which theory doomed it to failure.

I think just the reverse—a different theory was the right idea, but unfortunately, Life didn’t drink enough of it’s own Kool-Aid. Not enough Kool-Aid, and one other thing—it would have helped if Moore was a reader of climbing magazines.

I’ll explain that, but let’s first recap Life’s life. The magazine began in 1936 in the mind of publishing genius Henry Luce as a sister publication to Time that would engage in the then-rare art and craft of photojournalism. Telling stories largely through pictures worked for 36 years, for some of those years, phenomenally well. As Wikipedia puts it,

The Luce Life was the first all-photography U.S. news magazine and dominated the market for more than forty years. The magazine sold more than 13.5 million copies a week at one point and was so popular that President Harry S. Truman, Sir Winston Churchill, and Gen. Douglas MacArthur all serialized their memoirs in its pages.  

Perhaps one of the best-known pictures printed in the magazine was Alfred Eisenstaedt’s shot of a nurse in a sailor’s arms, snapped on August 27, 1945, as they celebrated Victory Over Japan Day in New York City. The magazine’s place in the history of photojournalism is considered its most important contribution to publishing.

Life was wildly successful for two generations before its prestige was diminished by economics and changing tastes. Since 1972, Life has ceased publication twice, only to be brought back to readers in different incarnations.

The Times theory comes through in quotes from two media executives.

Randy Siegel, president and publisher of Parade, said that Time was wrong to “scapegoat” newspapers for Life’s problems. While newspapers are having problems, Mr. Siegel said, and their ad revenue declined steeply last month, “Life’s inability to be successful is a separate issue.” 

He praised Life’s editorial approach but said it had spurned the kind of advertisers that historically supported magazine supplements, like those that play on a reader’s buying impulses, often involving food or dieting.

“When they came into the category, they publicly declared that they didn’t need the support of direct-response advertisers and package-goods advertisers, which are two of the biggest categories of business for all of us,” Mr. Siegel said. “The folks at Life felt they could rely more heavily on upscale, brand advertising.”

Marcia L. Bullard, president and chief executive of USA Weekend, said that Life had high expenses because it used higher-quality paper and had a strategy of entering several large markets all at once, which increased its distribution costs. “Give them credit for trying as long as they did,” Ms. Bullard said, “but they didn’t gain the advertising traction they needed to continue.”

Okay, we now have all the pieces in place for my theory, except one—a conversation I had with my climbing partner, M., on our way to the climbing gym last week.

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