Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Magazine Mayhem

Big Names Closing

A lot of attention has been paid to the relentless decline of the newspaper industry, but print magazines too are finding their readers and advertising money stampeding to the internet. Like newspapers, some magazines are finding new life by becoming more local oriented, but the big names that were designed to appeal to a general audience are going down hard. Yesterday publisher Conde Nast announced that it was closing some of its most famous brands:

Condé Nast will close Gourmet magazine, a magazine of almost biblical status in the food world, it was announced on Monday. Gourmet has been published since January 1941. Also being shut down are the Condé Nast magazines Cookie, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, according to an internal company memo that also was sent to reporters on Monday....

Gourmet Magazine has been published since 1941. The magazine has suffered a severe decline in ad pages, but the cut still comes as a shock. There was speculation that Condé Nast would close one of its food titles — Gourmet or Bon Appétit — but most bets were on the latter. Gourmet has a richer history than Bon Appétit, and its editor, Ruth Reichl, is powerful in the food world.

Media guru Jeff Jarvis, happily recovering from cancer surgery, offered this eulogy for the magazine media form.

I used to buy magazines by the ton (especially when I had an expense account to support the habit). I loved rifling through them. I loved working on them. But now I have all but stopped reading them in print. I still read magazine stories now and then but, like everything else in my media day, I come to them through links, from peers and aggregators. Just as other media have been disaggregated – the atomic unit is no longer the album but the song, the equivalent in news was the publication or the section or the article and now is the post – so is the essential element of the magazine no longer the publication but now the article, at least for now. So what separates a magazine article now from a newspaper article or a blog post except, perhaps, length (and online, length is often seen as a liability)?

Packaging used to be a key value of magazines: the great editor selecting the interesting topics and good writers and cooking a meal out of it. But in the era of media unbundling, the magazine becomes an instant anachronism. Reading the New Yorker or Economist or Vanity Fair becomes an act of living nostalgia, at least for those who can remember them. For the next generation reading magazines and newspapers and buying albums is – haven’t we learned this yet? – an alien experience, a media oddity.

So go to the newsstand today and look around. You’ll never see so many magazines again. One by one, like the trees they used to kill, they will fall. Some will remain standing, stronger because they’re not competing for sunlight and nutrition. But magazines as a medium and an industry will only shrink.

As a former magazine man, am I sad about that? What’s the point of emotions? It’s economics. As I’ve been saying about my cancer:It is what it is. There are new and wonderful ways to tell stories and to curate good and interesting work and so the value of the magazine can continue even if the form cannot.

New Face of the GOP

Tomorrow night Meghan McCain will be speaking at UMass on the subject of "Redefining Republican: No Labels, No Boxes, No Stereotypes." Her posters around campus are already wearing mustaches.

While her father John ran one of the worst campaigns for president in modern history, Meghan emerged from the wreckage of her father's campaign as an internet superstar, with one of the hottest sites around. Generally Republican speakers face a stormy reception at UMass, but Ms. McCain is not your typical Republican. According to the Wikipedia:

In general, McCain says that "I am a woman who despises labels and boxes and stereotypes." McCain has also described herself as a Republican who is "liberal on social issues". She registered as an Independent when she was 18 and she voted for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. She agrees with her father's positions on global warming and stem-cell research. At first she had doubts about the 2003 invasion of Iraq but subsequently supported her father's position regarding it. She also supports gay marriage and has stated she is pro-life.

She has commented that the cause of the gay community for equality is "one of the ones closest to my heart." As such, she spoke at the Log Cabin Republicans convention in April 2009. There she encapsulated her cultural and political perspectives with the declaration: "I am concerned about the environment. I love to wear black. I think government is best when it stays out of people's lives and business as much as possible. I love punk rock. I believe in a strong national defense. I have a tattoo. I believe government should always be efficient and accountable. I have lots of gay friends. And yes, I am a Republican."

Sounds like the kind of GOPer UMass may actually warm up to. McCain will appear at 6:30 tomorrow night at Stockbridge Hall (across from the Campus Center) and her lecture is free and open to the general public.

Historic UMass Photos

Back in the early 1990's there was a cellar music scene at the UMass dorm known as Butterfield, as documented in these photos by Northampton's Brian T. Marchese.

Dig the poster for local heroes Sonic Youth.

UMass in the '90's - ya had to be there.

Today's Video

A couple nights ago in Los Angeles Thom Yorke of Radiohead debuted a new band featuring Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, leaving people wondering whether some famous bands may be breaking up. Video from the show is exploding all over the internet.

A Yorke who is a radiohead.