Digital girl in a digital world (like Madonna, but not)

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.

Turns out Madge is more than just a material girl.

Turns out Madge is more than just a material girl.

Be an artist and be damn proud of yourself

This. This is why I do what I do. I never doubted arts/creative writing/reporting as my career path, but several people a day throw arguments at me why I shouldn’t do it – not because I’m not qualified, or passionate enough, or ready – but because they fear for me and they care and they are worried and they are my "friends". They’re worried I’ll live on canned tuna alone or not have an overflowing supply of Bath and Body Works exfoliant like I do now. Because the latter would be an ultimate tragedy. A girl’s gotta exfoliate. There’s virtually no going around it.

I tell them they should be way more worried having me do their taxes or perform open heart surgery on a loved one. For me, poems can mend hearts. Magazines are medicine. Do you know how much money I’ve saved on therapy just from reading Cosmo alone? Not that I need therapy, because I absolutely don’t (not that there is anything wrong with it at all if you need it).

Speaking strictly on preventative terms, my psyche and overall well-being would be a lot different had I not had the authoritative final say of the magazine to have my back during iffy times and even not-so-iffy times while getting a pedicure (which is more often than not Fiji by Essie, in case you were wondering. Baby pink on toes still works for fall, and I'm living proof!). Anyone who tries to argue the validity and importance of women’s magazines can meet me in the schoolyard at 3 p.m. We’ll duke it out. Come at me, bro.

When you’re passionate about something, the money follows. I send all the hugs in the world to those of you who have chosen a certain field strictly for money or stature or whatnot. Own up to what you love and stop putting yourself down for enjoying endeavours people don’t conventionally deem prestigious. You are great and you will be successful.  So, for all of y’alls who think you’re doing me a favor by requesting me to rethink my career choice, I invite you to read this quote by my man Kurt Vonnegut. I’m sure you’ve heard it, but I’d like it to come from me. Love to all.

"Here is a lesson in creative writing.

First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.

And I realize some of you may be having trouble deciding whether I am kidding or not. So from now on I will tell you when I'm kidding.

For instance, join the National Guard or the Marines and teach democracy. I'm kidding.

We are about to be attacked by Al Qaeda. Wave flags if you have them. That always seems to scare them away. I'm kidding.

If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."