It’s increasingly difficult for me to describe what I do for a living. When I was a wire service reporter, that was easy. When I was a free lance writer and a newsletter publisher, that was pretty easy, too.
When I became a magazine top editor, it got harder because the job was more complex than most civilians understood. The job is more custodian of the brand than it is assigning and editing copy. (As my friend Louise Kohl used to say, managing is harder than editing because when you tell a sentence to move, it doesn’t tell you to go fuck yourself.)
More to the point, a magazine in the year 2006 is a very different thing than it was 10 years ago. It’s not the words on paper meted out every month or week anymore; a magazine is the audience that reads it. Smart editors and publishers will use a magazine’s brand and interest cohort to address its readers using any appropriate media: SMS, Web, RSS, wireless, fax, whatever. As readers fled print for other media, advertisers at first ignored the move. Not anymore.
According to AdAge, Merrill Lynch is saying that 2006 is the first year that the Net will collect more ad dollars than print magazines. Not good news for print, but not necessarily bad news for publishers. At least, not the ones who understand what it is they publish.
This, of course, is important. It means that if you have a print publication and you’re not online in a big way — and that doesn’t mean just putting your print content on the Web — you’re leaving money on the table. You’re simply not in business.
So what do I do for a living? I still edit magazines. The thing is, a “magazine” is a different critter than it used to be. Which — as someone who’s been playing in “new media” for 20 years — is just fine by me. The job’s still more complex than most people understand but in different ways than it used to be. Not a problem: It’s always more fun inventing the future than replicating the past.