Genetically Superior

Flashy Journalism by Tony

One of my favorite style and culture magazines is going to get even flashier come August.

If you haven’t seen it already, Esquire editor in chief David Granger says the September issue will have the first E-Ink cover, which is admittedly pretty dang sweet. The cover will use inks that change color (in this 1.0 version, it’ll be just black and white) by applying different voltages to the magazine cover. A tiny battery will power the cover for about 90 days. The flashing text will say “the 21st Century Begins Now”.

A bit intrepid? Perhaps. But for the journalism industry, this marks an eager foray into the convergence of centuries-old print technology (the printing press was technology at one point) and print’s biggest foe: the electronics industry.

Thus far, no print media outlet has found a way to wrangle the power of the internet to make its print product better. Even now, a decade after the Internet went mainstream, many news organizations’ newsrooms have separate online and print divisions. In fact, only a few weeks ago did the New York Times move its online and print newsrooms into the same building. Until the newspaper industry finds a successful combination of the two, including learning to embrace citizen journalism without cutting newsroom staffs, it will continue to fail.

However, the magazine industry is a completely different story. Circulations, aside from those of weekly newsmagazines like Time and U.S. News, have held steady througout the online news push. In fact, studies have shown that magazine reading rates among young milennials are nearly the same as among aging baby boomers.

In addition, another study has shown that young readers will avoid reading serious news online, instead choosing headlines that appeal to their humor or pop culture tastes. The participants in the study, aged 14-18, called their experiences with reading online news “stressful”. I can completely agree. It’s not often that I’ll get on and read anything other than the headlines that interest me most: the weird, the sexy, or the explosive (and if there’s video of an explosion, you can bet I’m going to click on it).

I’ve been all over the place in this post, but I guess my lasting opinion is that journalism as we know it is both enduring radical change while simultaneously weathering an information revolution that is evolving around it. The key to traditional media surviving the information age is its keeping credibility with the public (something that seems to be a bit of challenge lately—thanks danratherfoxnewsphotoshop!).