A word from the Publisher

A Word from the Publisher

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As I began my day today, preparing for the release of our spectacular September issue, I saw online (we’ll come back to this later) a comment made by a photographer and aimed at digital magazines.  Rather, it was aimed at me personally, but the comment also appeared to minimize the role in which digital media plays in today’s publication world.  The comment read:

I see some casting calls being advertised for “magazine” and for “publication”. Models should always make sure the casting call is an actual “magazine” not just a blog or website, and misleading models with mocked up cover.  Most magazines don’t hold “casting calls” and definitely would and should not charge you money for such.

Now, I believe the purpose of the comment was to stir up drama by way of models paying for photography, whether the images would be published or not, so let’s get this out of the way first.  Fitness magazines have been holding cover model contests for a long time.  They may not call them “casting calls”, but this is essentially what they are; a means of exploring the talent out there and selecting those suitable for publication.  Those interested pay a significant entrance fee (plus other expenses) to grace a stage for about 90 seconds in hopes of winning a spot in the magazine by way of a photoshoot with the publication’s photographer(s).  Most of these contests have several hundred entrants and, because of sheer quantity, the magazine pulls in a significant amount of revenue.  Oxygen and Inside Fitness Magazine (two of the largest in Canada) have both run this type of an event and there are several others who have done the same throughout the world.

Photographers who are published regularly usually also employ similar practices; they’ll showcase their published work in hopes of drawing in paid sessions. Have a look at their websites and you’ll see this in action.  I’ve yet to stumble upon any professional, regularly-published shooter who operates as a true philanthropist, shooting all clients who wind up published, for free.  The difference when the finger is pointed in our direction?  Those who participate in a Training & Fitness Magazine Casting Call & Modelling Workshop are published, period.  Every single one of them.  Most in articles, some in features, and more than a few on the cover.  I’m not bragging; there’s a story to each of these events and we’re happy to give each of these participants their time in the sun.  Some of them have gone on to work with other publications and are now engaged in lucrative modelling careers.  We challenge other magazines to showcase every one of the participants at their own events, workshops and contests.  In my opinion, this will make the industry a better place, because a wider snapshot of the fitness industry will be shown, rather than the extremely thin slice that the prevalent publications deem “most beautiful”.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s address the slight on online and digital publications.  Wikipedia says that,”Magazines are publications, usually periodical publications, that are printed or published electronically. (The online versions are called online magazines.)  They are generally published on a regular schedule and contain a variety of content.  They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by prepaid subscriptions, or a combination of the three.  At its root, the word “magazine” refers to a collection or storage location.  In the case of written publication, it is a collection of written articles.”  Don’t subscribe to Wikipedia?  The Oxford Dictionary entry reads: “A periodical publication containing articles and illustrations, often on a particular subject or aimed at a particular readership”.  Note: their entry does not limit the term to the print medium.

Of the term “publication”, Wikipedia says, “To publish is to make content available to the general public.  While specific use of the term may vary among countries, it is usually applied to text, images, or other audio-visual content on any traditional medium, including paper (newspapers, magazines, catalogs, etc.).  The word publication means the act of publishing and also refers to any printed copies.”  The Oxford Dictionary entry reads: “The preparation and issuing of a book, journal, or piece of music for public sale” and “The action of making something generally known”.  This is important to note, because music put out for sale, can be in paper or electronic formats.  Again, there is no specific limitation to print/paper.

We’ve become so accustomed to these words being used to describe articles and stories actually being printed on paper that anything else seems out of place.  But, in fact, as these definitions have shown, print is only one form of publishing.  The world is changing, and technology is making it easier for consumers to find content by way of electronic devices.  When was the last time you were at a Tower Records or HMV purchasing music?  Despite the fact that you purchased a new release on iTunes, you still refer to that collection of songs as an album though, don’t you?  Well, magazines that once were only found on the store shelves in printed form are now being offered in digital versions online as well.  These magazines include such fitness titles as:

Oxygen
Inside Fitness
Muscle & Fitness
Muscle & Fitness Hers
Women’s Health & Fitness
Fitness Rx
Flex
STRONG

.. and countless more in other genres.  I think this puts to rest whether or not the terms magazine and publication are limited to print media.

One may argue that some of these digital editions (like those found in apps such as Zinio), which still employ a “page turning” format, are more like the print copy, thus granting them more license to use the term “magazine”.  This isn’t by design; this is simply the easiest way to place the content online as it doesn’t need to be reformatted and pieced out separately into individual articles.  It’s simply the whole magazine in an electronic file that has yet to be printed.  A nice by-product of this method is that the publisher can ensure that the ads on all pages will be viewed by the reader, who must “turn” each page manually to get to the content they’re after, thus guaranteeing the advertiser that the money paid to have their ads shown is well spent.  This, however, isn’t clever; it’s antiquated thinking brought forward.

But what if the publisher could deliver content to the reader in a more timely fashion, by allowing the reader to scan and search for content easily and quickly by way of a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, Quora or Drupal?  Would the reader not have a more enjoyable experience with the publication by reading what they want and avoiding what they don’t?  The answer is yes, and many newspapers and magazines are utilizing this format now due to sluggish sales in digital copies being offered by way of apps (1).  By using a CMS, publishers can also place adverts alongside all content, rather than just one or few pages.  This is advantageous for the advertiser also, because their products and services can actually be shown with specific content aimed at readers who might be keen to purchase said products and services.  This is to say nothing of the fact that reports can then be generated, showing the advertisers the actual numbers their ads are generating rather than projections based on circulation numbers and estimates.

It is generally accepted that, in time, print will die; it’s just a matter of when.  Advertising costs on this format are dropping at a steady rate and printing costs are rising.  Total paid and verified subscriptions declined by 1 percent in the first half of 2013, and newsstand sales, which are often an indicator of a magazine’s appeal, dropped by 10 percent. Both declines were similar to the overall trend in the same period a year ago (2). Additionally, “newsstand sales of U.S. consumer magazines dropped 12% in the 1st half of 2014 from a year earlier, while paid subscriptions declined 1.8% and digital editions continued to expand their presence in the industry, according to figures from the Alliance for Audited Media” (3).

Now, to be clear, I’m not knocking print, nor am I out to minimize the work of other publications.  If you love them, keep buying them in print or digital format; they keep the businesses running and there’s plenty of room out there in this marketplace for co-existence.  Training & Fitness Magazine is happy to shine the spotlight on the great work that others are doing in this and other fields.  There’s no reason to be so competitive; consumers rarely purchase just one magazine. Most of the time, they bring a few to the check-out lane.  They also spend their dollars online.

Those who are looking to trash digital and online publications (newspapers, magazines, and periodicals) should perhaps visit a psychic for a reading on the future, because they’re not able to read the proverbial “writing on the wall”.  The print versions which you think you are defending are already migrating to a digital format (or will be soon) and when this occurs, you’ll be eating your words.

Finally, let’s come back to the photographer’s comment which sparked this discussion.  The comment itself was made online via Facebook.  It wasn’t typed up, printed on paper, and sent door-to-door; it was circulated digitally, to hundreds, if not thousands of people instantaneously.  My own commentary in reply was drafted the same day and made readily available at a time while it was still relevant, rather than a month later in a printed issue.  The world is changing and those hell-bent on sticking with outdated technology and antiquated ideas will be left behind.

Oh, and thanks for all the traffic this comment has produced, Dave.  My advertisers couldn’t be happier.

 

Sources:

Moses, Lucia. Who killed the Magazine App?: AdWeek
Haughney, Chrstine. Magazine Newsstand Sales Plummet, but Digital Editions Thrive: The New York Times
Stynes, Tess.  Print Magazine Sales Decline in 1st Half of 2014: Wall Street Journal

Publisher/CEO at Training & Fitness Magazine. Fitness, Fashion & Beauty Photographer with a perfectionist complex.

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