The future of magazines in a long-tail world

The future of magazines in a long-tail world: Wired Magazine editor-in-chief and soon-to-be best-selling author Chris Anderson has a must-read post for those in the magazine world. Below are some highlights, but read the entire post.


The magazines that have a place in this world, despite the massive competition and the costs and delays of publishing on paper (in addition to online, of course), are those that offer something you can’t get elsewhere. They do one or more of the following:

1. Add value with unique perspective or analysis (above and beyond what’s already out there)

2. Add value with unique information (often obtained through the privileged access still afforded the mainstream media).

3. Add value with unique presentation, especially using immersive forms that don’t work well on-screen, such as long-form narrative and lavish packaging (including photography, infographics and other design elements).

It’s not easy to do this well, which is why I imagine we’ll see fewer successful magazines in the future than we have today. But it’s not impossible, and the magazines that do thrive in the Friedmanesque Flat World of ultimate competition and commodification will be those that are genuinely differentiated, not just those who can buy ink by the barrel and glossy paper by the roll.

With some irony, I’ll take exception with Chris on a small point: I think there will always be a tremendous number of magazines that succeed along “the long tail.” Success isn’t always measured in the type of revenue terms we apply to Wired, however, aggregate the “success” among all of the small publishers (especially in the B-to-B magazine publishing world), and I think some of Chris’ famous “long tail” economics may be at work.

In large part, however, I agree deeply with Chris’ thesis and, indeed, stabbed at many of the same thoughts in an interview with in March. In short, it will be the magazines that truly matter that will survive.

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