The second day of Magazine Publishers of America conference fell into three tracks for attendees to choose from; Advertising, Marketing, and Editorial. The editorial forum included a final, much-anticipated panel titled “The Decline and Rise of Magazine Journalism,” moderated by Slate head honcho Jacob Weisberg and included panelists Nick Denton from Gawker, Simon Dumenco, and Susan Morrison of The New Yorker.
So what was said behind these closed doors?
While discussing the benefits of print versus online journalism, Morrison used the example of The New Yorker‘s recent piece by David Grann on Cameron Todd Willingham, the Texas man executed for an arson that evidence suggested he did not commit. The in-depth article exemplified the type of writing that many print enthusiasts argue can not be experienced the same way online because of it’s sheer length (the article ran 12,000 words, much longer than your average blog piece). Yet, Morrison argued,
“We put it up online because we wanted it to create waves, we wanted it to be discussed and shared, and the easiest way to do that was to make it accessible online and email-able. And it was our most emailed story of all time!”
Meanwhile The Wrap’s Dylan Stableford caught up with ESPN’s general manager Gary Hoenig and asked about the health of the company’s magazine, which just produced a Body Issue in an attempt to rival competitor Sports Illustrated annual Swimsuit Issue. And while Hoenig dodged the question of how many issues were actually sold, he did crow about the expansion of ESPN’s digital mag with 28 million unique monthly visitors, “thanks to the gateway drug that is pro football.” Which would be great news if web viewers were worth the same monetary amount as magazine subscribers.
So yes, traditional print can be transferred to a digital format, but no one has yet to figure out how to turn that into old-school profitability. Is there a solution? Considering that tickets to the 2 day summit ran $699 a pop, perhaps magazines would do better worrying less about the pricing of advertisements on their websites, and spending more time charging tickets to events where leaders of the industry speculate on our current condition without giving any conclusive answers.