Social media killed the magazine star

Social media killed the magazine star

Saying it has been a tough week for the magazine publishing industry in South Africa is a massive understatement. With more and more magazines disappearing from our shelves, what will take their place? Or has social media already got all our attention?

This week Caxton, behind titles like Bona and Food & Home, announced it’s withdrawing from magazine publishing. This is days after Associated Media, printing favs like Cosmo and House and Leisure, closed their doors for good.

When I was a journalism student more than a decade ago (I’m old yo), we already talked about how the writing was on the wall for magazines. We had robust discussions about what would be the next. Would niche magazines be the answer? Paywalls and digital mags everywhere?

Little did we know advertisers would be funnelling their money into platforms we were already hooked on. Like Facebook and Instagram (a shame about BBM though).

Back then we envisioned social media would be like your own curation of the news you needed to know (from friends, family and reliable new sources). Along with cat memes and DIY videos. We didn’t see the sophisticated level of fake news/ false information and propaganda coming.

Yet people also thought print would die with the arrival of radio. That radio would die with the arrival of television. Today they are all still going. They’ve had to adapt or die. While newspapers are not quite what they used to be, with shrinking newsrooms and circulation, podcasts are now more popular than ever. While television isn’t pulling the numbers it used to, people are binge-watching hours of series, an idea that was almost unheard of ten years ago.

My long-winded point (there’s a reason I’m not a journalist, haha) is this: Innovation is needed.

The dawn of digital and social media changed the way we interact with news and the world for that matter.

Innovation is needed to stay alive. Pivot YouTube and leverage Tik Tok. Be where the people are and meet them there. As much as we love content from our friends, we also love content from authoritative media we trust. There’s a reason Vogue is still publishing (although they did report a profit loss last year). There’s also a reason why people still buy books and have screen times of eight hours (or is it just me?). The world has changed and the magazines that remain need to as well.

This discussion is far from over, I’d love to hear what you think.

(Also as an aside I think Tumblr and Pinterest are way cooler than we give them credit for).

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4 thoughts on “Social media killed the magazine star”

  • Well written piece Estee. I don’t know what to make it of it. I think you have a point about Tik Tok and Youtube and levering newer forms of media, because that is where the advertisers are moving. And paywalls seem to work for newspapers at the NY Times and the FT (which I pay for because the content is so good). If I get excellent, fact checked content regularly from a particular souce I will happily pay a subscription fee. It’s been a tough time for journalists for some time. And, the rise of fake news perhaps shows that free is not necessarily better, because it isn’t verified. In terms of consuming printed materials I buy books, a lot of them and often, but I only occasionally buy magazines at the aiport when I don’t have a book with me. I don’t often buy newspapers either, but I subscribe to my favourites to read articles behind their paywalls. Maybe these magazines would have lasted longer and the publishers could have come up with better ways to ensure a revenue stream to fund them. But, the Covid 19 pandemic is stretching even well funded, profitable businesses to their limits. It is a sad time. The advertisers that would have been keeping those magazines afloat are likely cutting back heavily on their spending as they adjust to this crisis. it is tragic all round.

    • Thank you RenΓ©e! πŸ™‚ Appreciate the comment! I didn’t know you subscribed to the FT and NY Times! So cool πŸ™‚ Yes I agree it’s a tragic time for businesses all around. There has been a huge surge in online media consumption (probably only temporary due to the lockdowns), that shows people want to consume content. Hopefully, the gap left by magazines will be filled with more good content being put online. I agree that I’d also rather pay for good content than have free and unverified content. What news or content sources have you been enjoying over the past few weeks?

  • Insightful and well written piece of journalism. And, I get your point πŸ™‚
    I feel very sorry for so many people losing their jobs.
    I have sympathy for readers missing out on favourite magazine. However, as you pointed out, the writing has been on the wall for a decade or longer.
    Maybe not enough people look at, or recognise writings on walls. Or maybe, Covid-19 is speeding up the inevitable scaling down and closing of industries while opening up a multitude of new possibilities and opportunities .
    If I could see the future ……….

    • Dankie Ester!!! Really appreciate the interaction πŸ™‚ I think you are totally right about the pandemic speeding up the inevitable for many industries. In terms of cruise ships and fast fashion, it’s about time.

      What would your prediction be for media consumption in 2030? I’d love to know πŸ™‚

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