The Death of The Magazine

By which I mean The Magazine, the (until very recently) app-based independent digital magazine launched by app-maker Marco Arment and currently published by editor Glenn Fleishman.  Which bled subscribers faster than they could add new ones, despite what one presumes was pole position in Apple Newsstand and content syndication deals with BoingBoing and all the rest of the things they did with great care and industry.  I wonder if they had data on how many people read it on phones instead of treating it as “an iPad magazine”?  While intended as a tablet magazine, the fact that each issue contained just four pieces made it easy, at least for me, to sample on the phone.

Fleishman’s budget for The Magazine was $2000 per piece, which broke down to “$500-800” for the actual story, and, apparently, the balance being taken by art/photography.  The current received wisdom in print magazines — I saw David Hepworth espousing it again, most recently — is that magazines are for looking at, and must be chiefly visual in nature.  For print magazines, that makes all the sense in the world, I’m sure.  Perhaps it even made sense for iPad magazines.  So I wonder about the usage split between tablet and phone, because spending that kind of money on art direction for a phone magazine wouldn’t be sustainable.

The moribund sf magazines have gained an extra life by going to simultaneous Kindle publication.  Because they’re just text, so why not.  Maybe the choices for magazines really are just print or plaintext, and digital magazines were just a four-year blip on the radar.  A really interesting blip, mind you, and I’m not here to bury Arment or Fleishman.  I’m sad that The Magazine won’t be out in the world any more, because if they achieved nothing else – and they certainly achieved — they made a lot of people ask some very hard questions about the nature of publishing.

I’ll read a piece in the LRB on my phone while having a cigarette and a coffee.  If there’s a next phase in this, then maybe it’s enforcing a digital divide.  You want the big pictures, buy the print and get yourself a beautifully designed object that you want to keep in your house.  if you actually want to just read the damned thing (or sample it?), buy the digital version.


Reading: MAKESHIFT Magazine, issue 10.  My newsletter is released every weekend: subscribe here.