The New Print Paradigm
magCulture is an online resource, a magazine shop, events producer and editorial consultancy.
‘We love magazines’ is our battle cry, expressing our belief that editorial creativity is an ever-developing discipline that continues to adapt to technologies and circumstances.
We celebrate historical and contemporary magazines while questioning what their future might be, and believe independent voices in print are more important than ever, as digital channels get ever-more efficient at closing down serendipity.
Magazines have changed beyond recognition over the past 20 years. What was once a mass-market, mass-produced central part of our daily media diet has developed into a very different medium.
The maelstrom of news and information has migrated to the new digital channels, leaving mass-produced print to question its very purpose. Many observers have found it easy in this context to write off the printed magazine as a dying or even dead medium, but this is a lazy assumption driven by people with a vested interest in digital over print.
With over a hundred years of development behind it, the print magazine has always existed alongside and responded to other technologies and media. Digital platforms are their biggest challenge yet, but we’ve already seen two powerful responses from print that demonstrate a clear future for the form. Both responses are built into the new generation of international magazines produced by individuals and small teams—the new indies.
Print has a strong future, albeit one very different to its recent past.
The first response has seen these new magazines dropping urgency in favour of contemplation. Rather than trying to compete with Instagram, TikTok et al, the new generation magazine rejoices in the very slowness of its production and manufacture. They are no longer working to a weekly or monthly schedule, but quarterly or biannually, and take advantage of their months of shelf presence to build loyal, dedicated communities of readers ready to enjoy the considered content they publish.
For, in a further inversion of the traditional magazine paradigm, the magazines favour quality over quantity. It was wrongly imagined that digital would suck all content out of print and leave the traditional format an empty, desiccated husk. But the opposite has happened.
The new indies are generally dedicated to specialist niche subjects, reinforcing community, and relish print with a keen focus on quality of paper, printing and long form content. This is a very different paradigm to the heyday of print, when magazines were platforms for advertising, their identities based on mass lifestyle choices. Reduced to the purest from of ‘magazine’, their role in defining self-identity is more powerful than ever.
The new generation magazine rejoices in the very slowness of its production and manufacture.
The second response further confounds expectations. Websites and social media have of course distracted many from print, but at the same time have offered small publishers the ideal channels to address their reader directly.
Combining a simple website with judicious use of social media, a new magazine can market itself to the entire world. A niche subject might not appeal to many people in one city, but add together all interested readers across the world and a magazine has the basis of a business.
It’s taken the infrastructure around print magazines some time to catch up with the changes to the magazines, but this is now happening too, particularly in retail: the magCulture Shop is typical of how indie mags are sold.
It was wrongly imagined that digital would suck all content out of print and leave the traditional format an empty, desiccated husk. But the opposite has happened.
We take as much care over selecting, curating and displaying the magazines as the publishers do producing their magazines. We see our shop as a showroom, and encourage visitors to browse the new magazines—the market is a specialist one, and needs specialist shops.
Over the last two years we have seen more new magazines being launched and more people buying them. I am confident print has a strong future, albeit one very different to its recent past.