A day or two ago, I received my complementary copy of Mix Magazine, the latest in a long line of doomed ventures the Oregonian--Portland's daily--has concocted to stave off death. If you don't live in Oregon, no worries; Mix is an example of a standard gambit dead-tree media have been deploying for years. It's a "lifestyle" zine, featuring scant, breezy words and large, colorful pictures. But mainly it's ads. The O has offered these free to subscribers as a way of "hooking" them so they'd subscribe after a few editions. It is certain to fail and the reasons read like a list of indictments against the whole enterprise of publishing.
Publishing was a model based on a simple balance of forces. Because information was hard to find, publishers occupied a primo spot: they could act as middlemen to put readers and advertisers together, taking shekels from both in the process. Genius! They have always been in the business of selling content to subscribers and subscribers to advertisers.
But it's not 1973 anymore. People do not have to depend on newspapers to feed them information, drip by drip, at the cost of a hundred ads. We no longer need newspapers, but newspapers can't get this through their thick heads. Instead, they compile advertising supplements, sprinkle a few two-month-old blog-post length pieces in, and ask us to shell out five bucks. Surely we'll see the value there? Surely?
Instead, of course, we go online where the same information is free and current and very often better. Rule of thumb: all things being equal, people will consume free content. I have no idea what might save the MSM. But Mix is definitel
Update. It's always the most ill-considered post that get the most comments. Why? I should just add that my critique here is not with writers. God forbid! I would love to see a system emerge where we would get paid to do it. And I take no pleasure in the dozens of good writers who've lost jobs at the O in the past decade. My comment is directed squarely at the MSM for their failure to see how doomed things like the Mix are. I love reading about beer, wine, and food. The problem is, the Mix is not a publication that sates this need. It's purely designed to sell ad space, and the effort they put in attracting my eyeballs is so meager that it requires--or at least provoked--a rant. It would be great if John Foyston and Catherine Cole were unleashed to write serious pieces in the Mix. I'd pay for that! They're not, and I blame the Oregonian.