Saturday, June 06, 2009

An open letter to CT at the Movies

You note in the latest CT at the Movies:
"Christianity Today International has been slammed too. In the last few years, we've lost more than a few key magazines—Ignite Your Faith (formerly Campus Life), Today's Christian Woman, Christian Parenting Today, Marriage Partnership, Christian History, and Today's Christian. And we've lost a lot of good people to layoffs—including 25 percent of our company just a couple of weeks ago."

You say these were key magazines....but the magazine world is full of this kind of thing: niche upon niche until the magazine stands are overflowing with 'something for everyone' and nothing for all. It seems crazy to me, in these days of increasing use of the Internet, that magazine proprietors should be going all out to promote endless magazine reading when this isn't what a huge number of people are reading. Worse, the content between the advertising, even in 'Christian' magazines, is often trivial and banal, mere filler.

I remember an editor I worked with years ago saying that the text was only there to fill up the spaces between the ads, and I think many magazine owners still think this is what magazines are about. But as the internet proves again and again: content is king, not advertising. Content first, advertising a very distant second.

Yet what
(to take one example) are newspaper publishers doing? Here in my (relatively small) city, we now have two free papers coming out each week. The content is almost nil in one, and while the other has upped its game, it's still half full of advertising disguised as reporting.

I understand your regret at losing so many colleagues, and I sympathise with you in this. Work relationships are often very precious. But magazines in my country, both national ones and imported ones, have become very expensive to buy week after week, and anyway most of the content turns up on the websites not long after. And while I prefer to read from print, my pocket just doesn't allow me to. And here's the good news: on the Net I don't have to turn over page after page of advertising just to read something worthwhile.

This is a time of huge change in the publishing industry. Print is by no means dead - and I don't think is likely to become dead - but we're all having to get used to a different way of reading stuff that has a degree of the ephemeral about it: newspapers, magazines, bulletins, pamphlets.

Just a few thoughts on a rainy Saturday morning.
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