Media, KoreAm Journal, And The Death Of Print?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Don't get me wrong about the headline - print will definitely always be alive in some form or another, and print has always been a source of great news, stories, narratives, photo spreads - and there's just something inherently nice about reaching out and actually touching a magazine or newspaper at times - but the current campaign which you've been hearing a lot about to save KoreAm Journal does beg the question of whether or not a niche magazine can survive in the long run given that its direct and indirect competition is online, where the environment and news isn't just publishing once or twice a week - or month, or every two months - but every day, every few hours, and in some cases, almost every minute.

If you think about the publishing constraints in regard to time that a print magazine like KoreAm has versus real-time publishing from online media, and combine that with the fact that online media can have a richer experience for readers with video, slide shows, real-time polls, integration into social networks, and community discussions - I really don't know how long print magazines like KoreAm can survive with their current business model.

Are they relevant? Definitely. Are they important? Yes. Can a magazine like KoreAm and others of that ilk get interviews and stories that aren't available to non-established media outlets that may be indirect competition? Yes - but that's changing - and rapidly.

At the same time, one of the things I've always wondered about, has been how media specifically geared towards print readers has looked at subscribers, circulation, and readership, and if in the long run, that's become a part of the problem.

For instance, while a magazine may have 5,000 paid subscribers, or a circulation of 10,000, they also pitch to advertisers about readership, and typically, readership is inferred via pass-along numbers and samples of data.

Compare that to online, where even with its problems in regard to location because of proxies and IP addressing (which print can account for much easier), advertisers can still get a better sense of how many times their ad is displayed, as well as other measurable results like if a person actually interacted with their marketing campaign, if that lead to a sale, and usually at a lower cost (although I think this will change when advertisers and publishers start seeing online readers as being more valuable in terms of connections to other networks and visibility).

In this way, it's easy to see why some advertisers have shifted some of their budgets to online advertising and marketing campaigns.

So what's my point?

To be honest, when I started writing this, I didn't really have a point - I just felt like writing about the challenges that print media, and especially niche magazines like KoreAm Journal have in this current age of publishing.

But I do have some more thoughts, and I guess you could consider them points I might be trying to make, or just questions to throw out there:

  • If traversing the business landscape is difficult enough for print media in general, what does a magazine specifically geared towards Asian Americans have to do in order to sustain themselves, and how do the closings of other traditional media outlets geared towards the Asian American population (and the lack of advertisers who wanted to put their money into what they saw as a niche market) affect the pitch to advertisers and sponsors?
  • Is media that's geared towards a specific ethnic makeup in regard to the Asian American population destined to be limited and eventually consumed by more Pan Asian media, or does it really have a sustainable base in the long run?
  • Should AA bloggers, vloggers, and social networking sites not connected to a media organization be seen as direct and indirect competition, or should they be seen as more collaborative groups to embrace, and help with an organization's visibility?
  • Is there a point where a print magazine like KoreAm thinks less about the cannibalization of their print offerings and instead more about their brand in general, thinking about themselves more as a media company and less as a traditional magazine? Should they?
  • Do people being featured in magazines, and those reading them, feel better about being in print versus online because of the intangibles that print gives to a reader? Is the connection better?
  • Are magazines like KoreAm (when compared to a group like bloggers) in a better position to output more polished, focused, and in-depth content than bloggers, who can sometimes serve the attention deficit crowd moving on from one topic to the next rather quickly?
  • Does the current state of KoreAm, Comcast dropping iaTV in San Francisco, or AZN TV closing earlier this year tell us anything about Asian American media, or have they simply been business models which haven't worked, or failed to capitalize on new trends and audiences. Specifically in the case of KoreAm, does this give it more of an opening into a wider audience?
  • Has writing this gotten me really hungry for some reason?

I can definitely answer that last question - which is a yes - so I'm out and done for this post with exception to one last quick note:

You have to respect what KoreAm Journal has been doing, and while I'm sure they like other businesses are looking at how to adapt, if you don't want to see them go, if you think they are valuable in the community, you do need to do something about it and get on out and either subscribe or donate to their cause and let them know that you're behind them.