It’s a magazine if you say it’s a magazine (me, I’m a print and screen publisher)

Here’s something I used to care about, but don’t anymore: the word “magazine.”

I still care about magazines (both professionally and personally), it’s the word I don’t care about anymore: what it is, what it means, on what one can hang the label.

I’ve chosen to become a latter-day, big-tent guy when it comes to the word magazine — or, for that matter, any media or marketing label.

I’m tired of debates over what the definitions may, or may not be, of lots of words like blog, micro-blog, TV, radio, podcasting, news, journalism, journalists, social-media, big, small, bubble, bust, opened, closed, paid, free, 2.0, 3.0, i-, e-, cool, dead, or, for that matter, the difference between the words hipster and scenester. Do I need to go on?

But let me get back to the word “magazine.”

I knew it was time to throw in the towel when even the Magazine Publishers of America gave up on defining the term magazine, so they officially changed their name to just the letters MPA, but then, in a slap in the face of acronym-lovers everywhere, added the tag line: “The Association of Magazine Media.” (Which begs the intentionally double-meaning question for someone else to answer, “What does MPA stand for?”)

In the early days of this blog, I used to argue the use of the word “magazine” to describe something on the web was a train wreck in the making. I used to believe that when words start being used to describe anything, they end up meaning nothing. I used to believe it was helpful that when, as a communication medium and publishing format, the word magazine referred to a recurring printed product. That way, people of any age could agree what “a magazine” is. While I’m sure some news-reel company or radio show used the word before them, I believe it was 60 Minutes that most convincingly established the precedent for using the word magazine as a metaphor that can leap to non-print formats.

And that’s exactly what happened when the browser-based web appeared in the mid-1990s.

There are scholars and philosophers who have spent entire careers pondering the various roles of metaphor in our lives, so I won’t try to simplify why the decision by someone 15 years ago to label the website a magazine would one day lead to it winning a National Magazine Award in a category where the nominees included The Daily Beast, which, to my knowledge, has never described itself explicitly as a magazine, but, ironically(?), was created by one of the most talented and influential magazine editors of the past quarter-century. The fact is, the word “magazine” has always been, when it comes to information and art assembled and distributed in a recurring fashion, a metaphor.

So it should come as no surprise to me, or anyone else, that, upon seeing a something that waddled and quacked like a magazine, that the something would be called a magazine by the early creators of websites, that were, as they were told by the creators of those browsers, comprised of “web pages.”

That Slate magazine is now owned by a company that used to own Newsweek magazine but who sold(?) it to, in a round-about-way, the Daily Beast, whose editor now also serves as editor of Newsweek, should convince even the most strident defender of the word magazine being, somehow, a paper thing, to give up the fight.

I know I gave up the fight.

When works of art are mere content and anyone who re-tweets URLs is a curator, why should I care about what the label magazine is applied to?

I guess you’ve heard: I don’t.

But I have decided what I am: I’m a publisher. You know, publishing — it’s the word the MPA dropped like some hot lead type, even though they kept the “M” word.

I’m a print publisher. And I’m a screen publisher. I love all you content and media creators — and for real-world business, marketing and SEO purposes, I’ll keep using words like “content marketing” and “media” to describe what my company and I do. (I’m more a pragmatist and entrepreneur than an idealist and linguist.)

But I’m sticking with publisher when I describe who I am — to the mirror.

[To be continued…]