Like fellow HuffPost blogger Cable Neuhaus, I was at the FIPP magazine Congress in New York earlier this week, but as a business geek, not editorial observer. My takeaways have to do with my current obsessions with the strength and opportunity of magazines as businesses -- provided they, and we practitioners, are willing to embrace the present in all its dynamic complication. (The future, as ad agency Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Renatta McCann pointed out in her powerful keynote on Monday, is already here.)
Magazines are powerful tools of engagement. But if they don't stay with -- not to mention anticipate -- their readers' evolving needs, their relevance will diminish. This doesn't mean that magazines will cease being printed on paper, but it does mean that printed magazines will increasingly be only one part of a content delivery mix that will feature online, of course, along other 'screen' devices: cell phones, linear TV, video billboards, wireless devices and the like. Magazines, which produce trusted content, can leverage their product and brand awareness to capitalize on evolving technology -- and it's an exciting time to do so. Or they can be defensive and insist on trying to figure out how to talk readers into the value of paper magazines, delivered traditionally, in eat-your-spinach fashion. Advertisers, who stay closely attuned to consumers for a living, will simply demand platforms that reach those consumers with maximum impact. Magazines, which have demonstrably deeper relationships with their readers than other media have with their consumers, will adapt appropriately and become a more primary component in advertiser buying decisions. Or anyway, they should.
Readers will increasingly shape their own custom content. The passive consumption of media is behind us. Interactive communities -- again, gathering around known, trusted content suppliers -- are emerging, informing magazine experiences beyond reading one 'magazine'. Readers are requesting certain pieces of information, rather then the whole; they want regular updates and input; they want to share their own perspective. And they want it all now, especially if they're young.
This is a tremendous opportunity for magazines. Instead of arriving at a reader's home or being purchased on the newsstand for a one-dimensional experience, we in the business can now be part of our readers' lives in other dimensions, much more often. Let's keep the print readers as happy and as deeply engaged in our products as we always have (I'm one of these happy fossils). But let's not forfeit our future by being slow to add -- and anticipate! -- the crucial added dimensions other readers demand from our editorial and delivery mix.
The World Is Flat. Who hasn't mentioned Friedman's book lately? The world is flatter, more quickly, in media than almost anywhere; magazines will need to move as fast as the landscape. Because here comes the world.