Why The End Of Professional Magazines May Be In Sight
We live in the age of the amateur. Anyone can sing. Anyone can write. Anyone can take a picture. Anyone can do anything that’s creative, because we have the means. We no longer need professional experts, film critics, book reviewers, art, music or drama teachers because hey – we can do whatever we want. And it’s about to get a how lot easier to hear from the impassioned amateur.
Flipboard, the site that allows you to build a personal platform for all the things you follow, just announced that its update would contain a new feature. Interestingly, nobody paid this press release much attention on the day, possibly because the accompanying video was staggeringly boring. But behind it was a logical idea that, if it catches on, could transform our reading habits. Flipboard 2.0 allows you to create complete magazines of your own easily and quickly.
As the website PaidContent puts it, ‘it pivots from purely curation-based interaction to one that offers users full-blown creation abilities. We have a glimpse of a possible future and itâ€™s both beautiful and terrifying.’ Now what that actually means is thatÂ consumers could start subscribing to read other consumer-curated magazines, or lock down content that can only be opened like mag apps are now. It would mean, quite simply, the end of the professional periodical.
So why aren’t publishers donning their brown trousers?
Well, Flipboard is big (50m) but largely inactive (people download it and never use it). And if it makes a wrong move right now, it will kill any existing goodwill and create some big-ass enemies. Plus, Flipboard is an aggregator, which means they’ll never have the source revenue of traditional media. Â And yet it could take off. Professional online subscription is struggling against print. Although I mostly subscribe to online magazines instead of buying print ones now, many are tiresomely glitch-filled – as you’ll know if you’ve tried ‘The Times’ or ‘Sight & Sound’.
And while they struggle to catch up, someone in their bedroom just made a cooler, sexier magazine in 20 minutes. And it’s not full of advertising.
But there’s a bigger obstacle in Flipboard’s wake. The competition for leisure time has simply outgrown itself. We subscribe to 200 channels and watch five. If we download music we don’t listen to the radio. If we read a book we don’t play a videogame. If we watch a sport we miss a movie.
That’s where the tablet comes in. You fill the dead time, the moving time, with passive Â leisure activities – and that fits a magazine perfectly. US magazines draft in a real expert when they want a piece on a specific subject – and those experts can win a Pulitzer for fine writing.
I suspect that it won’t be Flipboard who benefits, but the first dedicated mag-building app who follows in its wake. And then, for the publishers, it’s brown trousers time.