Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Magazine Industry's Identity Crisis

The business formerly known as the magazine industry is going through an identity crisis -- and we're proud of it.

"In 2001, we were a print-centric medium catering to millions of readers. Today we are Magazine Media – and our content gets read, watched, listened to, commented on, repurposed, and disaggregated," crowed MPA president Nina Link recently to the Magazine Media Conference.

In fact, what was the Magazine Publishers of America a decade ago has morphed into MPA--The Association of Magazine Media. (What's that you say, those initials should be "AMM", not "MPA"? Shhhh, don't tell.)

We used to know what we were – magazine publishers. We produced printed products that were distributed on a regular basis, usually weekly or monthly. But no one, it seems, produces only printed magazines any more.

Now we create magazine media, whatever those are. There's nothing particularly "magazine" about the Weight Watchers Mobile app, an AARP video of Raquel Welch about going "beyond the cleavage", or, but all are produced by organizations that publish magazines (though none fit neatly into the category of magazine publishers).

OK, Nina, so what are magazine media? She didn't say. But she did announce the launch of The MPA Digital Glossary of terms related to "the technology and usage of personal mobile devices . . . that offer magazine media content and advertising." Nice, a guide for us ink-on-paper types who don't know the difference between a bootloader and an eReader.

The glossary, however, doesn't define "magazine media." It doesn't even define "magazine" -- a word that no longer has a distinct meaning in a world of apps, e-editions, and bookazines.

Oh, and there's one other significant omission: The glossary doesn't define an eleven-letter word beginning with "cluster". If you've worked in magazine media for awhile, whether analog or digital, you certainly know how essential that word is to understanding the industry.

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