9 things I’ve learned about magazines from blogging


As people who read this blog know, a regular topic I write about is the magazine industry. That should make sense, as Hammock Inc. publishes magazines for several associations and corporate clients.

For their August issue, the business-to-business magazine Publishing Executive invited me to write a guest column about things I may have learned about magazines from nearly a decade of blogging.

As most of what one reads about magazines and blogs tends to place the two media in adversarial roles, what I wrote for the magazine may surprise you.

Here are nine things I’ve learned about magazines from blogging. The full column, which explains what I mean with each point, can be found on the magazine’s website:

1. Magazines and blogs are made for each other.
2. People in the magazine industry are consistently inarticulate in their attempts to describe the qualities of the magazine format.
3. No one will ever collect NationalGeographic.com.
4. The people who say print is dead don’t actually mean print is dead.
5. Successful magazines succeed for three reasons: a passionate niche, they are required reading for that niche, great design.
6. More magazines play a role in a non-publishing business model than in a publishing business model.
7. A digital magazine will never replace a printed magazine.
8. The magazine format can contain content that is “journalism” or it can contain content that’s anything but journalism.
9. Make lists end on a random number other than 10.

Again, some of these won’t make sense without reading the entire column.

Later: By auditioning a link to this column on Twitter, I’ve discovered that some people really like #3, which is a short version of my description of the common-sense observation that a physical magazine is not a digital website, and therefore, the two platforms that share the same brand should be and are different.

3. No one will ever collect NationalGeographic.com: OK, here is my suggestion to those in the magazine industry who haven’t figured out how to compare magazines with the Web (see point #2). The magazines we love are not merely things we read and enjoy; they are expressions of who we are. We display them on coffee tables and desks the way people wear designer labels on clothes or purchase one model of car over another. People collect magazines, trade them and display them on decorative racks or in frames hung on the wall. Magazines provide us with mementos of our life’s journey. They allow us to savor our passions and save special moments. The magazines we love are so important to us, they make us feel guilty to consider throwing them away. The Web is a wonderful thing when you want to drink information from a fire hose. But the magazines people love are like bottles of fine wine: Even if you have to wait a little before opening it, there’s something a bit exciting about the anticipation.