The demise of The Word magazine (part 2)

(I conked out before finishing all I had to say last night. Here’s the rest.)

The Word (magazine)
The Word (magazine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Part one of this entry was all to do with my love of magazines, even if their contents didn’t interest me much. I come from a generation where you had the luxury of learning for love, broadening your perspective. The concept that you might consume media that is not specifically targeted at you is pretty alien these days.

I’m marking Media Studies exams at the moment (don’t worry, nothing specific coming), and although it’s exhausting I find it very rewarding, because it makes me think about different topics and how I might communicate them to my students. What they should be learning is that the modern media is fast-moving and diverse, offering the audience the opportunity to tailor their consumption to their interests, contribute their own content, and interact with other like-minded people.

All of that is pretty exciting. And here we are. But if you’re doing all that, you literally have no time to consume media in the old way. The point I was trying to make last night was that a magazine like The Word, with its luxuriously long articles, just doesn’t fit in with the mixture of consumption and production outlined above. Sure, it’s a shame in many ways, but it would also be a shame for a young person not to seize the opportunity to start a blog, follow hundreds of people on Twitter, or upload a few vids to YouTube or Vimeo.

Reading magazines is a lifelong habit, which I’ve more or less lost because I’ve embraced the new way of doing things. I regret it sometimes, and out of nostalgia will pick up a magazine, but it just doesn’t work in the same way. In fact, it makes me feel bad because I feel guilty for not reading it, which is silly, but still. My whole Word subscription turned into a year of feeling guilty for not reading something that didn’t interest me much. Crucially, even downloading a magazine onto my iPad just doesn’t work. Because on my iPad I also have the Twitter, and Angry Birds, and Flipboard, and the WordPress app. Why read one magazine when you can find 10, 20 articles from 10, 20 other sources and red those? The whole world is a magazine now.

In the exams, the students are asked to speculate on the future of various parts of the industry, including print. Most of them think that newspapers and magazines will die, or go online-only. The question of how all this will be funded never comes up. What I like about David Hepworth’s blog is that he often returns to this thorniest of all problems. If people are no longer willing to pay for content (in print, or in the form of TV drama, say), how does it get produced? The answer is that it doesn’t, and the media we produce for ourselves will have to suffice. This either means that the quality of what we consume will diminish, or that we’ll all have to get better at producing it — and paying for it, if necessary.

This might bother people of my generation. But if you’re sixteen? It will always have been this way.

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1 thought on “The demise of The Word magazine (part 2)”

  1. Magazines are still an ‘and’ not an ‘or’ for me – maybe its my demographic.?

    If I want the latest spec of the Zoom H2n I’ll google it, but if I want to read about a topic in a more leisurely manner then the magazine has it’s place. Not least because it can appear and demand some dedicated attention.

    There’s always that risk with vertical mags that they draw one into unnecessary purchase decisions (addictions?) and with freebies like weekend supplements that they are full of fluff.

    But I’ll keep consuming them and managing the pile to be less than around 40cm high.

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