A few months ago I was on a press trip with a number of international magazine editors. After the obligatory introductions and general pleasantries, the conversation quickly turned to the challenge of print survival with the onslaught of online media. “Are you not terrified we’ll become obsolete?” questioned one particularly overwrought South African-based editor of a glossy international title. “We need to have a presence online, but my team and I just can’t keep up and it’s diluting everything we do.” She lamented the addition of social media platforms into the mix and when someone mentioned Snapchat I think I saw her eyes well up. Others agreed and all of a sudden the mood became so sombre that even the delivery of the most perfectly chilled glass of rosé you’ve ever seen barely raised an acknowledgement. Perhaps I’m a little too partial to a pink glass or maybe I’m just a much more optimistic creature, but I couldn’t agree with their summation of the state of our industry. To me, the advancement of digital media fills me with excitement, not dread. It’s challenging the way my team and I work, pushing us to think bigger and create more efficiently than ever before. What could be negative about that?
With an influx of competition, the cream will always rise to the top and those that don’t see a bright future for both are missing the point. People react and engage differently to print and online-specific content. Print is a beautiful, considered, curated and indulgent medium that I’m passionate about. Getting to work on a glossy premium title is, for me, the pinnacle of working in print media. We agonise over every page, have stand-up arguments over fonts, the search for the perfect image is a daily challenge and the arduous subbing process has brought grown ups close to tears, myself included. Why do we care so much? Because our magazine is going to be read for days, not scrolled through in seconds. It signifies a little bit of time out in our readers’ otherwise hectic lives and we want them to luxuriate in the overall experience. Fashion editorials don’t translate in the same way online, nor could a web editor ever have the luxury of spending a third of their production budget creating eight beautiful images. Equally, our readers can’t engage with us instantly like they do online, we don’t have the opportunity to publish quirky picture-led stories on a whim like this one about cats and haute couture or to react to news stories as they’re happening.
Likewise, social media is adding to the cocktail of information available. Despite being a very private person, I embraced Twitter in its infancy for its varied network and newsworthy content; Instagram has been a revelation and provides me with daily visual inspiration for all areas of my life; and despite initial resistance to Facebook, I am completely won over by the professional benefits of this platform (reconnecting with long-lost friends and family being a pleasant bonus). The truth is we’re all consuming more content than ever before and while print may be under threat, I firmly believe the strong will survive. Companies investing in print alongside their digital versions and placing equal value on each will weather the storm. After all, video never did kill the radio star.
The August issue of IMAGE Magazine is out now.