First Newspapers, Now Magazines?

Growing up, magazines were special to me. My first subscription was to kiddie nature magazine My Big Backyard. Then when I got too old for that baby stuff, I transitioned over to the more scientific Ranger Rick. My aunt got me a subscription to Teen when I turned thirteen. A publication for every occasion.

But the really special magazines were the ones I was allowed to buy on the newsstand. It typically meant that we were about to head out on a vacation, and my Mom was shelling out newsstand prices so I wouldn’t whine through the whole car ride. To this day, I still pick up impulse copies of Real Simple or Lucky or Everyday Food when in line at the grocery store.

Which is why I was sad to read David Carr’s column on the precipitous decline of newsstand magazine sales.

Like newspapers, magazines have been in a steady slide, but now, like newspapers, they seem to have reached the edge of the cliff. Last week, the Audit Bureau of Circulationsreported that newsstand circulation in the first half of the year was down almost 10 percent. When 10 percent of your retail buyers depart over the course of a year, something fundamental is at work.

I know the decline of magazines all too well. But my Twitter feed is full of people sharing the journalism done by magazine writers (and not only because I follow a lot of magazine writers). Longreads exists to let the 140-character weary among us know of pieces of writing that challenge us to keep up with a well-researched piece, many of which are posted online by the magazines nobody is buying. Magazines tend to give us the fodder for many a social media flamewar.

Like newspapers, magazines need a new model to convey that feeling of something special to younger readers. Even though I’m overwhelmed by the print edition, the New Yorker‘s idea of creating an app with multimedia content is a good one, especially since non-subscribers can pay to access articles. Maybe Tiger Beat can create an app that sends unique One Direction cellphone homescreen images to tweens. Cat Fancy can offer a compendium of YouTube kitty videos. Then I’d probably be tempted to subscribe.

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