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Friday, October 11, 2013

Magazines.

Today I saw this magazine while shopping.



I have a very close friend who is doing a Paleo diet - which I invented 10 years ago, except I called it the cave man diet! But that is another story - and I told her that if there is a magazine for it, the fad is over.

She responded that she had seen that magazine and it was horrible. Poorly written, horrible graphics. cheaply printed. Just a bad magazine, and when talking to people she said she told them she was "gluten and dairy free" as it caused less trouble. She is very smart. But it got me thinking. The age of magazines is dead, but unfortunately the magazine publishers don't know it.

20 years ago, my wife at the time and I had an idea for a magazine. We both worked in media. Her father worked in magazine publishing and when we told him the idea he said "don't even think of getting in the magazine business!" He explained that starting a magazine was ridiculously expensive and barely paid off, if you didn't go bankrupt first. If it was a bad business idea in 1993, what do you think it is now?

There have been magazines that I have loved. Outside magazine and Backpacker are both magazines I have subscribed to. I read them for years, and was excited when I would see that they arrived at my door. Outside in particular is - or was - amazingly written, and the reason I have been active in the outdoors today is because of the writing of Tim Cahill.  (I say was because I simply haven't read it in quite a while) But at some point I got tired of both. I realized that I saw the same stories and issues from outside on a yearly basis. Oh its February? It's time for the skiing issue, but unfortunately I don't ski. I think the first issue of Mens Journal, and National Geographic Adventure were among the best magazine issues ever published. Over time, Mens journal became a very different magazine. The first issue talked about driving a racing car - written by Roy Blount! - and had another article about building a cabin. Now it is all about the stuff you want, and how to get the body of the guy on the cover. National Geographic Adventure stopped publication in 2009! If NG can't keep a magazine going, what chance do the folks over at Paleo have?

Here is the problem. Everything I read in a magazine is two months old, and we live in a world where ideas move much faster than that. I think Sea Kayaker and Ocean Paddler are both amazing magazines - though visually speaking I think Ocean Paddler is the winner - but if I want to know the details on a new kayak I am going to google it. If I want technique I have hundreds of options, with paddling headquarters being my first stop. The vast majority of the 'how to' world is now online, and I know this because I wrote a 'how to' book! You can search Youtube for any number of 'how to' videos. From starting a fire to cooking an egg. It is there and we all have access to it. And guess what? Access is free.

I wont even get into the trees that are being turned into magazines, so they can be thrown away.

If I ran a magazine today I would be trying desperately to find my next move. Last year I paid for the digital version of ocean paddler which was really nice on my iPad, and no trees were killed. But I let it lapse for the two month old information problem. I think if I ran sea kayaker - which I clearly don't - I would turn it into a free digital subscription, and every day I would push a single article to peoples iPads/iPhones/or insert your tablet of choice here, as well as hosting a website. I would pay for everything with advertising. I am sure that their biggest expense is physically publishing it.

But then again, what do I know. I invented the paleo diet and did nothing about it.

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