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Embracing Change Panel

Posted by Tina Casagrand on September 12, 2008

The topic of the 10:45 session in Tucker Forum was Embracing Change: Ensuring the Future of Magazine Journalism.  If today’s crowd (I stopped counting at 112) indicates the interest in magazine journalism, we can feel more comfortable with that future.  A panel of accomplished MU graduates (whose graduation dates spanned over 20 years—a surprise to me, as they all looked similarly vivacious) seesawed between the good news and bad news of the field.  Web traffic is up.  Physical magazine circulation is down.
While we might lament the thinning of physical publications (I personally love the design, smell, and tangibility of a real magazine, not to mention the satisfying stacks that accumulate on my desk each month), we can do little to reverse the trend.  As citizens utilize blogs-that-are-printing presses, they’re acquiring louder voices and bigger egos.  To keep with the current, editors and writers must give up some of their power to the community.  John Byrne, of Business Week’s Business Exchange, says that this new journalism is “all about reader engagements,” inviting audience participation, and thus inducing loyalty.

Jack Bamberger, of Meredith (the media marketing company for Parents, Better Homes & Gardens, and others), noted word-of-mouth (including blogging) advertising strategies and its 2 broadband channels as ways to keep his magazines fresh and interesting.

Embracing Change panel

Embracing Change panel

At the prompt of moderator Sonja Steptoe, the panel described best practices for producing and selling derivative content.  Geraldine Sealey noted that magazines are so separate that everyone has their own web strategy.  Contributors to the website produce 60 to 70 pieces per day, and visitors to the website come, she says, “to get something different from the magazine.”
Lamar Graham’s Parade thrives both online and in print, despite the magazine’s original aversion to web media.  They now offer online games, photo-sharing, and content widgets for their newspaper partners.

Another exception to the failing magazine market is the 132-year-old Farm Journal, which boasts a readership of 400,000 and prints various other publications, including Dairy magazine. Charlene Finck, vice president, editorial for Farm Journal Media, pointed to other methods of gaining and keeping readership.  Not only does Dairy boast “sexy cows” on its cover each month—her company also hosts events like “Corn College” and keeps demographic data on their readers which “helps decide not only what we should be doing, but also who we should be sending it to.”

The industry of agricultural journalism changes a lot slower than most, however.  In the mainstream cultures, the internet forces magazines to adapt to the new trends.  Byrne noted that a divide still exists between print and online journalism, saying “if this were the Renaissance, the web would be Florence.”

Byrne went on to say that young staffers are more ambitious and productive than their older counterparts, a point which Finck backed, explaining how her magazine pairs young staffers with older writers, a kind of “reverse mentoring,” where the older people “catch the fever of what’s possible.”

What’s possible, apparently, is to be decided by us, the next generation of journalists.  “You are your own brand,” said Graham of magazine journalism and the web.  Finally, Byrne, saying that “this is the best time to be a journalist” advised students to go out of J-School as entrepeneurs.

One Response to “Embracing Change Panel”

  1. […] Embracing Change: Ensuring the Future of Magazine Journalism […]

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