Monday, June 18, 2012

Where have all the magazines gone?

Confession time: my first love was writing. I was assigned "make a newsletter" in high school and absolutely fell head-over-heels in love with designing, writing, drawing, and printing the single-fold sci-fi 'zine (this in the days before 'zines were a thing). My friends wrote for it, too, and there was a book review and a hand-drawn title and everything important I could think to include.

There are times I miss that format of communication. Short magazines can be not only incredibly gratifying to make but also extremely helpful to a particular audience. Like, say, tourists who are in town for one weekend and want to know what the cultural heartbeat is. My family and I recently visited the metro-Asheville area and picked up an abundance of monthly/bi-monthly/yearly printed magazines. Actual hard-copy, some glossy, some newsprint arts-and-culture magazines.* I pored through them, cover-to-cover, to find calendar listings, articles about restaurants, ads that looked cool, and information about local theaters. And, guess what!, we actually visited a few of the places we could (our limited schedule + business hours didn't always mesh).**

I understand the move away from print: it's expensive, it usually requires more than one person to make (writers don't often make good designers and vice versa), there may be advertising that has to be sold, planning, etc etc, ad nauseum. Building a website may be more labor-intensive up front, but is simply plug-n-play later on, and can be maintained by one person. But the downside to a website is this: audiences still have to find it. You can't put it under their nose at the local theater and the cool dive restaurant and at the Convention and Visitors Bureau and at the hip downtown store and at the local brewery with a tasting room and and and. You get my point: helping folks, whether tourists or locals, find out about cultural offerings requires repetition. A community which relies on a website is probably not going to get the kind of buzz they're hoping for. And a community which doesn't even offer one for the general public, but instead has a handful of independent bloggers covering the multiple scenes, will find itself again and again wondering why folks are still ONLY going to the S/O/B or Broadway touring shows instead of homegrown programming available.

It needn't be elaborate. It needn't be that expensive. It doesn't necessarily even need to be well-written (is there such a job as "copy editor" any more?). What a local culture rag does need is to be omnipresent.

*Full disclosure: there were some beer-related ones in there, too.
**And I happen to be one of those crazy people who tells the business where I found out about them. After all, I want to know my ROI. Wouldn't they?

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