Sunday, March 29, 2009
Living in a post-print world
I got a call from Jeff Remz yesterday. He's the editor of Country Standard Time, the music magazine for which I have plied my pen for the past thirteen years or so. He was calling to tell me that he was folding the magazine as of the current issue. I should have seen it coming. After all, just a few minutes prior to his call, I had read that Blender and Maxim magazines were both going under. There are staff cuts and forced furloughs at the New York Times and Washington Post. Now that I think about it, print publications are dying off faster that a boozer's brain cells. Fantasy and Science Fiction, for which I have also written for the past few years, recently went from monthly to bi-monthly, US News and World Report went from a weekly to a monthly. Even Playboy is not immune to the tide threatening to engulf all printed periodicals. Hef's magazine will no longer publish an August issue. (A great loss, if you ask me, as Miss August was invariably my favorite playmate.) A quick internet search shows that in the last few months Cosmo Girl, Men's Lifestyle, Domino, Genre, Playgirl, Country Home and Wondertime have all ceased publication or gone online only. 525 magazines folded in 2008 and more than 50 already this year.
That makes me sad. I love paper. I still subscribe to or read most issues of several magazines, including Rolling Stone, The Sporting News, TV Guide, Harper's, Games, Smithsonian and a few more. I hope they continue to publish but I wouldn't be at all surprised if they joined the others in the magazine mausoleum. Now, I don't think we're going to be living in a magazineless world any time soon. People and US are healthy enough to ensure that people will be reading them at the gym and pissing me off in the process for years to come.
But I don't think kids today will ever look forward to updates on a website anywhere near as much as I looked forward to the new issue of my favorite periodical. All my life I've done this. I grew up in a world where Time and Life were always around. When I was a little kid I had a subscription to Highlights and I loved finding the hidden pictures and learning about manners with Goofus and Gallant. Shortly after that I discovered 16 magazine and devoured every issue, learning what the Monkees and Paul Revere and the Raiders were up to. After that it was Mad and Cracked. All of the Marvel comics from Avengers to X-Men. Then National Lampoon and High Times and Modern Man in high school and college. (I'm only mildly embarrassed to admit that in the tenth grade I had a subscription to Rona Barrett's Gossip magazine.) And there's a long list of magazines I've loved as an adult too. The late, lamented Spy for one. Comics Buyers Guide, The New Yorker, Found, FHM, Mental Floss, Vegetarian Times, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, the Modern Drunkard and many more. Some still publishing, others gone forever.
I don't know what to say about this or what to think. I know everything changes, and just like everybody else I'm spending more time browsing around online than I am with a book or a magazine in my lap, so maybe it's partly my own fault.
Maybe it's better if you don't know what you've got till it's gone. That way you don't have to watch it die slowly before your eyes.