Print Icons Sputter, Mags Push Anti-Fake-News Advantage

September was an eventful time for print publishing, filled with signs the magazine/newspaper world we once knew is fading faster than old copies of The Village Voice. 

Consider what happened last month:

Miranda Priestly is retiring — or is she dead?
OK, so Priestly (of “The Devil Wears Prada”) is a fictional figure, but last month, a slew of real celeb editors-in-chief either breathed their last or announced their impending retirements. The retirees, all of whom went public within the same week, were Condé Nast stars Graydon Carter (Vanity Fair) and Cindi Leive (Glamour); Robbie Myers (Hearst’s Elle) and Nancy Gibbs (Time Inc.’s Time).

None explained their motives for bowing out too clearly, making me wonder if the powers-that-be had forced their hands. Or maybe they were pooling their resources to develop one wonderfully glossy fashion/celeb/current events pub?



A more probable scenario: As editors and executives told The New York Times, “the abrupt churn in the senior leadership ranks signaled that the romance of the business was now yielding to financial realities.”

The death of silk-pajamaed print icon Hugh Hefner at 91 reminds us that, once upon a time, editing a magazine could make someone rich enough to afford to buy planes and mansions.

The Village Voice publishes its last print edition, a collectors’ item/nostalgiafest featuring retrospective articles and photos galore. (A favorite: longtime gossip columnist Michael Musto posing in underpants as a parody of Madonna’s “Sex” book.)

Among those articles was a look back at the power the Voice once held when it “owned the New York City rental housing ad market. Friends, relatives and strangers would beg (and bribe) us for an advance look at the paper’s ‘apartments for rent’ section,”  former Voice classifieds director Susan Belair wrote.

Certainly, this was a crystal-clear illustration of the Internet’s effect on print, killing entire ad categories at once.

Fighting back against such obsolescence, in early October, the MPA (the Association of Magazine Media) announced a six-month ad campaign in 123 magazines promoting mags’ trustworthy, “expertly researched content” as an alternative to “fake news.”

Some of the ads seem to make sense when promoting the viability of magazines’ news-related content, which may not add up to a high total of pages. But four of the eight ads target such categories as health, beauty, cars and food, with headlines like “Can Sharing Beauty Tips Get Ugly?”

Whew! I was so concerned that every word in that Allure article about eye shadow might not have been vetted in advance.

Seriously, the fake news everybody is concerned about is not the feature/service pieces these ads mostly discuss. Especially when it comes to getting readers in the MPA’s corner, that argument seems less than compelling.

The press release about the new MPA campaign also included this piece of ad industry blarney: “Individuals are more likely to be happy, confident, excited and hopeful when they read magazines, compared to time spent with other media, according to RealityMine USA TouchPoints.”

Ironically, that's not even the silliest/saddest thing I’ve read recently about magazines.

That honor goes to a quote in the Times from Kurt Andersen, who along with Graydon Carter, founded the satirical magazine Spy back in the 1980s: “Mr. Andersen, who now writes books and hosts a public radio show, said that magazines might eventually gain a cult following akin to the interest around other obsolete media, like vinyl records.

“ 'Eventually, they’ll become like sailboats,' " he said. 'They don’t need to exist anymore. But people will still love them, and make them and buy them.’ ”

I can see comparing magazines to vinyl records — but sailboats? What an oddly old-money, WASPy simile. But maybe that’s the point?

1 comment about "Print Icons Sputter, Mags Push Anti-Fake-News Advantage".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 11, 2017 at 8:56 a.m.

    The only hope for magazines is to operate like TV/video ad sellers using thier digital platforms in network fashion, not touting their "non fake news advantage".

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