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Magazines must embrace the future

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ACP MagazinesMagazines are changing, as most forms of media must. The digital age has arrived. Some newspapers are struggling with just how much content to replicate online, how it might be differentiated from print and whether people should pay for it.

Magazines face similar, though not identical challenges. On the web we expect daily content and immediate news. It's not for nothing that the BBC has such a hugely successful website - it can draw on, and publish, content all over the world. The Guardian website now derives more than half its readers from the United States. Being able to draw readers from around the world is a major advantage of the online model.

It is possible for print magazines to exist harmoniously with the digital world — it's just a question of how. A recent article in the Economist tracked the decline in magazine readership in a number of countries. The article concluded that magazines, while not doing it as tough as newspapers, are also having to re-invent their revenue models, and their content.

The advertising model for online is one of the things holding online publications back. While up to 35 per cent of media is now consumed online in Australia, the commensurate amount of advertising money spent is only around 10 per cent. This, combined with people's expectation that web content should be free, means that the numbers don't yet add up. In the long term the revenue models will be worked out. In the short term, many magazines are doing it tough.

It's difficult to say when the numbers will begin add up. In the meantime, many are looking to sites such as New Matilda, Crikey, and yes, Eureka Street. All are making a go of it as online-only publications. This prompts further examination of the online model.

It has been a challenging time for our readers. Many were convinced that a move online meant a diminution in quality. I would like to think it has not been the case.

Crikey We still have university lecturers, senators, and authors writing for us, and even the winner of last year's Gold Walkley award. We are still winning awards for our work, too.

The other encouraging aspect of the move online has been the rise in readership. We now have four times the readership we had in print - with up to a quarter of them coming from overseas.

Online publication is not bad for magazines. Perhaps the key is to not try to replicate the experience, but rather to create something new, derived from the old. As John Donne might have put it, 'Magazines are enjoying not yet a breach, but an expansion.'

James Massola is leaving Eureka Street to take up a position at the Canberra Times. His replacement is Eureka Street film reviewer Tim Kroenert, who has spent five years as an editor in the Salvation Army's communications unit.





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Existing comments

Yes I read, but I still appreciate the lasting feel of print! the treasured place on the library shelf....where coffee now tasts like real coffee, despite what I just tasted in the kitchen. The key word or flash of colour that triggers the mind as the eye flashes along the row of covers....
How can we do that on email!!!@!!!
Therein is the puzzle for the web developer.....
I can brouse, but only in my dreams....
James, farewell, and thankyou for your challenge to brouse in a static position.....with foul coffee........

Frank Wright | 11 October 2007  

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