I’ve been thinking about magazines a lot lately. Not that I haven’t been thinking about them before, too, but I've been consumed with the idea of magazines being unable to exist on their own like an eight-year-old child in the cavernous bedding section at Ikea.
I am not worried about the survival of print as a species. Come on, they are not zebras or pandas! Give them more credit than that! An iPad doesn’t look as Instagram-appropriate illuminated by the flame of a fireplace and a glass of Pinot. Neither does the blue light of a Macbook Air you got for grad. There will always be a place for print in our lives, but not at the extent of eschewing their digital counterparts altogether.
It has come to my recent attention (oh boy, I sound like a professor about to call out a student for copying off another kid) that most major media outlets have a print and digital product that are FRATERNAL TWINS. You’d think you’re getting the same stuff, but consuming them is a wholly different experience.
One of my favorite women’s magazines offers an incredible digital product that’s catered to an entirely different demographic and is essentially an entirely different experience. Why they chose to deliver these two products under the same name is something I had to mull over for like 30 minutes in the bath. To me, it’s interesting how they’re trying to be every place in the world at once. They want to be political but they also want to be sassy and they want to speak to your mom and they want to speak to your little sister. It’s an ambitious endeavor, but are they succeeding? Of course they are.
Why? I think it’s pretty simple. You have two entirely different people opting for print vs. digital media. You've got your old school, seemingly conventional kids who get off on flipping ACTUAL REAL TANGIBLE pages, the ones who haven’t yet been contaminated by the Gen Y zero-attention-span syndrome. They can stomach the “dreaded” long-form journalism, unadulterated by breast enhancement ads and viruses (how you got your computer virus is not my business).
Then we have self-diagnosed ADD/ADHD/Just, like, really eccentric millennials and “cool moms” who subscribe to the notion that if you can’t tell a story in 140 characters, you don’t know your story at all. These are the types of people who will click on an article based on its feature photo (we are visual creatures and there is no refuting that) and opt to continue reading whether or not the lede is cool, grabby or profane enough.
Publications shoot themselves in the foot if they don’t consider this dual reality. Transferring print content online isn’t enough, and demonstrates laziness and insensitivity. While creating a new online brand is costly, there are other alternatives start-ups can look into to get in with the “cool moms” of today. Of course, these two demographics are not mutually exclusive, but it's important to factor in how you can maximize the satisfaction of both.
Reformatting long features can be as easy as turning them into click-through galleries that divide content into little bite-sized-Ritz-cracker-blocks of cuteness. Paired with a photo in each block, reading the content will feel like a linear string of headlines. Clicking on things has become this Tourrets reaction we have towards everything digital, so flying right through a gallery won’t feel so laborious. And within minutes, you’ve conned your site visitor into reading a whole 2,000 words! Ha! Manipulation at its finest. Sorry not sorry this blog post isn't a gallery. #meta
Flowery stuff is cool on the web, but it’s not for everyone. Cut down huge features by getting only to the meat of it. Anecdotal ledes are my favorite things in the entire world and they get me PUMPED, but they can often be somewhere around 1,200 words long. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Tell me what you want to say in the time it takes for me to decide to leave your site and go play Tetris.
That long-winded profile you did with some B-list celebrity? No one *really* cares about an eight-page spread devoted to the ins and outs of their walk-in closet or their diet down to the very last calorie (actually, I totally care, but that’s just me). Instead of copy pasting the whole thing onto WordPress in all its daunting glory, why not retain it in its organic, natural, oh-so-easy Q&A format? Sure, we’re less likely to get a glimpse into your writing chops, but strong journalism is more so about asking good questions. Show off in the meta-description, just to whet our appetites, and then let your source’s badass responses stand as a testament to your skills as a reporter.
Do you guys get your news on print or digital platforms?
On a kind of unrelated note, this Buzzfeed article sooo gets my dad-joke-inspired word humor. If you love it as much as I do we should be friends forever. http://www.buzzfeed.com/regajha/puns-for-english-nerds