Adapt or die? Magazines in the future

Reading this Mashable article today, How magazines are adapting to the mobile revolution, reminded me of a casual interaction I had earlier this year with a senior staff member of one of Australia’s major Indigenous publications.

I casually mentioned to him that I’d missed a story they had published. To which he (smart-arsily) responded, have you been reading the enemies’? I was thrown by his comment (actually I was offended but that’s another story) and didn’t have the quick-smarts to reply ‘Oh, you mean The Australian?’ even though I knew who he meant.

In thinking about his response though beyond being personally offended, I thought more about myself as a consumer of newspapers and magazines. My husband and I used to be compulsive newspaper buyers. We used to buy at least 10 newspapers per week (Courier Mail & the Australian each week-day, the Weekend Australian, The Saturday Mail, the Sunday Mail, and occasionally The Weekend Sydney Morning Herald). We also would buy numerous magazines each month (ArtMonthly, Art and Australia, The Bulletin, MyBusiness, AntHill, Quarterly Essay, the Monthly, Griffith Review, Time and others).

However since joining the smartphone revolution a year ago, we now buy NO paper newspapers. We still buy art magazines. I also get a copy of Nett magazine sent in the mail because my websites are registered through Netregistry.

We buy our magazines directly from newsagents (we don’t subscribe at all). While we were happy to alter our real-world routine of the newspaper reading session (clear off the table, cup of tea and a bikkie), we’ve not been able to halt our enjoyment of browsing. If Indigenous publications happen to be at the newsagent, I will buy them.

Our weekly and monthly consumption of newspapers and magazines has completely altered. I read more blogs than ever. I subscribe to blogs via their Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts and will head to websites when I see a post on these streams. I do subscribe to blogs via RSS as well, however my Google Reader is insanely full and very neglected. When brands and businesses are integrated into G+, no doubt I’ll be circling them too.

I read very little fiction these days. And probably 99.9% of the online content I consume is non-fiction. It will be about business, Indigenous issues, social issues, education, and technology. When I’m consuming, I want to be entertained, challenged, moved, and educated.  And most importantly, when I’m consuming content, I want to be able to use it in some way, that is, I want to be able to share it. I’m addicted to sharing content. I’m addicted to other people consuming your great content. I want to get traffic to YOUR site because if I like what I’ve read then I want to inspire others to read it too. I want my audience to read your content. If your content isn’t sharable, I’ll get pissed off and seriously annoyed. It had better be very good, or over time I’ll move on to someone who is sharable.

The enemy of your publication is not other publications*, but it’s your short and long-term ability to provide me (the customer/reader) with a product that I will want to pay for, with content I want to consume, and with content I want to share and recommend to others to consume as well.

Publication is a cut-throat business and you need to be able to service your customers. If your customer’s habits change/evolve, so must the way your deliver your product/service. Well guess what I (the customer) am changing. Are you?

* I have this dream that people will snap out of this idea that the different Indigenous publications have to compete but rather can work together to collaboratively thereby increasing audience levels for everyone. Doesn’t it benefit all of us that in the long-term if more non-Indigenous people are reading Indigenous content? And maybe making a difference on public policy matters? Yeah well. I’m can dream can’t I.

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