Trends and Strategies in the Creative Industries - Final assignment
Exchange student (Ca’ Foscari University Venice)
Student n. 33518119
THE FUTURE OF PRINTED MAGAZINES BETWEEN
SOCIAL MEDIA AND NEW DIGITAL DEVICES
15 February 2010
Questioned by Sofie Spindler, I accomplished to determine some guidelines of evolution of the
press industry in the next future. In particular she asked whether social and interactive media
influenced the magazine’s structure; I preferred to turn a bit the question towards the new
challenges that printed editions have been facing. The impact of those digital media is really
evident on press industry: circulation and revenues of magazines, but especially of newspapers are
decreasing more and more that the end of printed editions seems arrived. Obviously unnumbered
other motivations play their role. However, as history shows, we often find new purposes for “old
tech”. Magazines are old new media that are going to be destructed creatively by digital
interactive media. While new devices like iPhone or e-books are put on the market, press industry
activates new niche strategies to permit magazines’ survival. Cross-media operations, co-created
contents and branding practices enable magazines to find new financial assets while the
contribution of designers could enormously improve the quality of the printed editions.
In conclusion I add couple of proposal for further empirical research. In brief, for a short term I
propose to conduct market research among other industries connected to publishing, in order to
implement strategies of partnership; for the long-term instead I suggest to investigate the
usability of an innovative device like e-books throughout practical tests and surveys on samples.
Research question: introduction.
Sofie Spindler is an independent art director engaged on the magazine industry. She addressed to
the research company that I lead some questions in order to solve some pressing issues. Standing
that the original format of the women’s glossy magazines is really conceived and invented for
printed press, she asked whether digital media and interactive media influenced, pushed and
reinvented the structure of classic magazine’s form and how the future of glossy magazines will be
like1. Concerning digital technologies evolution and giving response to such issues, my proposal
would prominently investigate the main guidelines of development that printed magazines will
follow in the next future.
Here the link of Sofie Splinder video: www.youtube.com/user/TRENDSCI2009#p/u/3/VYb7ndjPFXg
I structured my proposal as follows: firstly a theoretical introduction leads us to the new
challenges that social and interactive media face to the publishing industry, notably focusing on
glossy magazine. Then I propose my responses by discussing the survival of magazines in the new
digital age. To conclude I add some proposal for further empirical researches together with an
estimation of the costs that would be involved.
As history demonstrates, new technologies never completely replace old technology. As Walter
Benjamin (1936) argued, the introduction in the early twentieth century of new techniques to
produce, reproduce and circulation works of art on a mass level (cinema and photography in
particular), has radically changed the attitude towards the art of both artists and the public2. But
photography did not replaced paintings, but rather other forms emerged like impressionism,
cubism and surrealism. We generally found new purposes for “old tech”. Digital media, social or
otherwise, will not completely replace printed media, they rather evolve. What will the future of
magazines be like?
From the invention of the print (Gutenberg 1440, the date by which we consider the launch of the
classic print) more than five hundred years are passed by and no new technological devices have
been replace books. We can then expect that such revolution will have a deep impact on our
living: it does not only regards reading magazines, newspaper or print in general, but rather our
perception of life and our social interaction and organization. According to Marshall McLuhan3 our
perception is deeply influenced once a new medium appears in everyday life and overcomes the
one already existent. For instance, the invention of the press brought the cultural dominance of
the visual over the oral. Is not the content in itself that matter, for example reading a crime novel
rather than sport news or a scientific research on earthquake in Middle Italy, but the way people
interact with this medium. Not whether television broadcasts a football match or Big Brother, but
rather how television as a medium impacts people that are (were) obliged to sit in front of and
passively soaks it. Books indeed seem to be one of the best inventions ever done because still
Walter Benjamin (1936), Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit.
Marshall McLuhan (1964), Understanding media, University of Toronto Press.
Nevertheless nowadays the developed countries are facing the turning point of the digital
revolution: the phase of “installation” where the old media are creatively destroyed appears
finished and we are slightly moving towards the “deployment” phase where production capital will
lead to innovations across all sectors and where social benefits are widely spread (Slot & Frissen
2007). “Barbara Maria Stafford observes that with the increasingly widespread use of interactive
computer graphics and educational software packages we are returning to a kind of ‘oral-visual
culture’ which was at the heart of European education and scientific experiment in the early
eighteenth century” (in Lister, 2009, p. 63).4
How the press industry face the new challenge of digital and interactive media.
The press industry is now at the core of such transformations. The whole industry goes through a
deep crisis both on revenues and audience’s interest. Despite that, magazines and newspapers are
differently facing the digital challenge.
On the one hand new technologies seem to have rendered obsolete newspapers in their
traditional format. As Clay Shirky5 explains on his blog, "Printing presses are terrifically expensive
to set up and to run. ... [But] the competition-deflecting effects of printing cost got destroyed by
the internet, where everyone pays for the infrastructure, and then everyone gets to use it.6" Why
people have to pay for news if they can find them for free by a mouse click? As a matter of facts,
newspaper circulation in U.S is down 7 millions over the last 25 years while in the last 5 years
unique readers of online newspapers are up 30 million7. Readers are not stopping reading; they
rather shift on the Internet. Moreover some American newspaper companies are going to
bankrupt while others switched off printer machine and now exist only on Internet. The
Associated Press (U.S.) on December 21 listed the newspaper companies that have declared
bankruptcy: Tribune, Freedom, Philadelphia, Sun-Times, Journal Register, Star-Tribune,
representing 66 daily newspapers among them8. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer now exists only on
the Web. Is quite evident nowadays those newspapers circulate less than the past, revenues are
lower and advertising is progressively moving on websites.
On the other hand magazine’ format fits better the challenge of internet. A primary motivation
certainly lies in the use that is made of the images when compared to newspapers. Our society is
Lister, M., J. Dovey, S. Giddings, I. Grant & K. Kelly (2009) New Media. A critical Introduction, London: Routledge.
Clay Shirky is professor at New-York University.
Source: Newspaper Association of America. http://www.naa.org/TrendsandNumbers/Total-Paid-Circulation.aspx
To see the list: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jrsTgJuhJelkua1BPW92FjU7nK2gD9CNVBJ00
still more “visual” than “oral”. Moreover magazine circulations are not declining as rapidly as
those of newspaper, although there are notable examples of companies that decided to produce
no longer print editions. Dennis Publishing indeed has announced on April 2009 that the UK
version of Maxim will remain only available on the website. “Actually, in the war of old media
versus new media, magazines could be said to occupy a middle ground between the two, which
puts them in an advantageous position. Newspapers are definitely in the “old” category, having
dominated the world of intensive mass literacy and political awareness that was born in the 18th
century, achieved its maximum reach by the mid 20th century and then began to
decline”(Dorfman 2008). Magazine can be considered as a medium halfway between the print
culture and the image culture. With the proliferation of niche titles, it could be argued that
magazines share some of the targeted quality of web sites. Magazines could in fact be called “new
old media” or “old new media.”9
Fig.1- 1897 Fig.2 - 1942 Fig.3 - December 2009
By those Cosmopolitan’ covers we can see how graphics changed overtime, notably under the influence of other
media. The first editions reflect newspaper front page at that time: old-fashioned title, no images and index in full
(Fig.1). Half century later, a romantic kiss image fully dominates the cover: it may be a consequence of the wide
diffusion of photography (Fig.2). A well-endowed model is the subject of the actual Cosmopolitan front page and
dazzling titles are putted at her sides in a non-linear order as the hyperlinks are arranged on the website (Fig.3).
How to save magazines?
The resultant frame appears to be very dramatic. Newspaper’ future seems to be traced: maybe
they will not completely disappear but they will not be the first source of information losing their
primarily purpose. They need to be re-invented and other purposes set up. However my focus
there is on magazines and I prefer to leave the discussions on newspaper aside.
How can printed magazines instead survive? The problem concern both financial and content
aspects, intensely related each other. Prior the Internet, magazine incomes came from subscribers
and advertising: now readers are not willing to pay anymore to read whatever they like; at the
same time advertisers are moving to the Web because it offers more-efficient solutions than
printed paper. In order to make a breach in the interest of readers is in fact easier to customize
the advertising as Internet does through keywords and tags.
Publishers should reduce print copies and implement new strategies of distribution in order to
minimize such costs that are still very high. This may seems a contradiction in terms, but also
appears the solely way to maintain or increase their business. In addition the wastefulness of so
many editions that goes unsold can be avoided; advertisers can nimbly identify who really reads
their insertions. Therefore websites and printed version of the same magazine needs to provide
different services in order to avoid annoying repetitions and inefficiencies. They are two separate
outputs of the same firm and not two versions of the same output. Finally the consumer, or better
said prosumer, should have a clear distinction between the content of the website and the content
of the printed version.
A way to enhance the quality and consequently the sales is adding an artistic value to the content.
How? Designers can do that. “I want to make posters, not newspapers, not even magazines:
posters - assess Jacek Utko, an extraordinary Polish newspaper designer - We were experimenting
with type, with illustrations, with photos (…) and soon it started to bring results (…) The secret is
that we were treating the whole newspaper as one piece, as one composition- like music”10. The
reading would be perceived as an experience like listening a song, with the design that leads the
reader surfing through the pages. A magazine can then be intended as something unique and the
signature of a famous art-designer as a proof of quality. A top-level magazine with solid audience
could establish niche strategies of distribution, for instance by limiting editions and raising prices.
Interactivity, co-creation and crossing media.
The core of the challenge posed by new media is the interactivity. The term interactivity stands for
a more powerful engagement with media-text, because during the consuming of media text the
user is able to directly intervene in and change the images and texts that they access. One of those
Speech at TED. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jacek_utko_asks_can_design_save_the_newspaper.html
forms of new media and interactivity is cross media. Cross media is a term used for the integration
of different media types and the use of different platforms.” (Lister & Dovey, 2003: 9-44)
Actually almost all important magazines already function as multiple platform for reading,
listening and watching contents at the same time throughout hyperlinks. But few among them
have taken the further step by converging their publishing activity with other different ones like
communication companies, other cultural industries or even advertisers. Co-creativity developed
by crossing media operations may leads to important success and profitable source of revenue; it
enables to enlarge consistently the audience reachable and allow publishers to be more
independent from advertising. Maxim’, the biggest man’s magazine in the world, for example
started programming events together with the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Las Vegas, while
the publisher of Cosmopolitan, Esquire and other well-known magazines partnered with Nokia.
Maxim’ is also developing an in-depth understanding of readers preferences and interest by
researches and focus group as well by survey and reader reviews based on Facebook profiles.
Those publications are now more than simply magazines, they turned to be brands. “The future of
news is entrepreneurial” claim the American journalist Jeff Jarvish on his blog BuzzMachine.
Emerging practice of branding surely can be a suitable strategy for the survival of magazine.
As argued before we are now living a sort of “turning point”. The considerations proposed on the
future of papers are undoubtedly valid for the next future, but the implementation of new
interactive digital devices on the market is now opening new crashing scenarios. The Association
Press in collaboration with Esquire presents their latest findings on the future digital magazines by
some video uploaded on Youtube11. At the same time e-books like the ultimate Amazon’s Kindle
are already available on the market. Such transformations coincide with the passage from the
present Web 2.0, where consumer is producer together, to the next Web 3.0, where we can
imagine the prosumer and technological devices fully connected at any time and any place. It is
only matter of time, the time that “installation” phase will end, that such vanguard devices will
spread the world. “Over the next decade – assess Jason Pontin the Editor in Chief and Publisher of
Technology Review - they (publishers) should distribute editorial content to personal computers
over today's Web, to small devices like the iPhone, to larger devices like Amazon's Kindle, to
electronic-ink devices as they emerge, and to print publications (at least for a little longer).” To
conclude, will paper disappears from our daily consumption replaced by digital devices? Within all
See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8u3OfKG3tI or the Associated Press channel
those visions of the magazines of the future seems there is no space for paper. But printed
magazines and newspaper will not disappear: rather they evolve towards new utilizations.
Proposal for further empirical research
Here I would suggest two main directions of efforts for further researches for both short-term and
long-term employments. Firstly, an economic research could investigate the actual market of
media industries and communication agencies in order to implement new strategies for business.
The underlying goal is the transformation of the company into a brand easy to recognize and able
at the same time to offer multiple services and contents to readers. The focus are those
companies or agencies with similar or complementary business with publishing in order to make
commercial partnership. Then swot analysis can be used to compare the extent of agreement with
the companies founded. This research appears simple and quick. It involves one Senior researcher
that lead the teamwork and three Junior researcher. Two weeks is a reasonable period of time for
the work required (30 hours/week).
Besides that, I believe that digital consumption is going to overcome “analogical” consumption,
although the boundaries of this distinction become more and more thin. The examples cited on
last paragraph are only a few of the new devices put on the market. Others are probably in
construction or still to be invented. A long-term empirical research must focus on the potential
application of innovative digital devices because users are still not familiar with interactive tools,
touching screens and moreover with virtual reality simulators and augmented reality apparatus.
Human senses require time in order to be adapted to new technologies.
The research aim to investigate the usability of an innovative e-book throughout practical tests
and surveys. There are needed three targeted groups of at least 20 people each: schoolchild and
students (6 to 25), adults (25-59) and retired people (60+). The company can award the focus
groups with an annual subscription to his products.
To conduct this research the Senior researcher have to provide a least 10 prototype of the e-book
(at least one prototype per researcher is needed). This research is extremely more expensive than
the first one. It involves one senior researcher, two medior researcher and ten junior researcher
working intensively for one month (40 hours/week).
First research €
Senior researcher n.1 (100€/hour) 6000
Junior researcher n.3 (40€/hour) 7200
Prototype n. 10 50000
Senior researcher n.1 16000
Medior researcher n.2 (70€/hour) 22400
Junior researcher n.10 64000
Short critical reflection
Writing this paper I often felt on the mistake to address my attention to different topics related to
the one I have chosen. This is due partially to my curiosity or maybe to my difficulty to keep tightly
in mind the goal I pursue, but mostly because this topic is very actual and concerned everyday life.
You open one door and thousand others open at a time.
I selected many sources from some important blogs run by Illustrious personalities both from
academic and professional fields. Even if bloggers are not still considered at the same level as
academics (because we all are bloggers!), I thought that those references fit better on my
purpose. Probably I developed more some arguments than others: I could have dwell more on the
importance of co-creativity and consumer as a creator of content for instance, and less “on
medium is the message”. Synthesis is not my strong point, especially writing in a non native
Finally I found difficulties on the financial proposal. Even if I have some economic background I
have never matched so deeply the theoretical work with practical on my academic studies before
(unfortunately).I am pretty sure that a realistic financial proposal covers dozens of entries.
- W. Benjamin (1936), Das The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.
- J. Dorfman (2008), The Magazine Industry. Facing the challenge of internet, TransMedia Institute.
- M. Lister, J. Dovey, S. Giddings, I. Grant & K. Kelly (2009), New Media. A critical Introduction.
Second Edition. London: Routledge.
- M. McLuhan (1964), Understanding media, University of Toronto Press.
- Slot, M. and Frissen, V.A.J. (2007), 'Users in the 'golden' age of the information society',
Observatorio (OBS*) Journal, 3, 201-224.
- Newspaper Association of America http://www.naa.org/TrendsandNumbers/Total-Paid-
- Jeff Jarvish’ blog, The future of news is entrepreneurial on BuzzMachine, November 1, 2009
- Jeff Jarvis, How Bankrupt Newspapers Can Start Over — Before It’s Too Late on The Faster
Time, December 22, 2009.
- Jason Pontin’ blog, The new Commonplace on Technology Review, May 4, 2009
- Clay Shirky’ blog, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, March 13, 2009
- Jacek Utko speech at TED