Sunday, May 13, 2012

Horse Magazines and the Digital Age

For the majority of my adult life, one of life's simple joys revolved around waiting for the mailman to deliver my horse magazines in the mail.

As soon as they arrived, Id read them voraciously within a few days. Afterwards, I was bummed because I'd need to wait another month for the next one. If I was going on vacation, Id stockpile them and wouldn't let myself read them until we drove out of the driveway. 

Over the years, Ive subscribed to several horse magazines. I kept them, catalogued them, and put them in binders. Id refer to them when I needed to go back and find a particular article or series on horse care or riding. I had the first issue of Equus, several years of Dressage and CT, and the complete set of Dressage Today. 

Yes, I loved magazines, not just horse magazine, but I subscribed to Better Homes & Gardens, Home Magazine, Home and Garden, and Sunset.  

Even more incredible, I actually read them. 

Over the past few years, I noticed a change in my reading habits. I bought a Nook, a Kindle Fire, and an iPod. Shortly after purchasing my first Nook three years ago, I quit buying paperback books. But I still had my magazines.  

Last fall I started cleaning out the attic and the upstairs bedrooms. Those years of magazines went out the door, given to a friend to read. After which shed pass them on to the local 4-H group. 

This past year when my subscriptions to three different horse magazines came up for renewal, I thought long and hard. Several months of these magazines sat around the house, unopened and unread. Even though each magazine company offered a better and better deal as the day loomed closer, for once I resisted. I let my subscriptions lapse on those three magazines for the first time in more than a decade. In fact, one of the magazine companies actually called me trying to convince to continue my subscription, which I declined. 

Calling subscribers? Thatd never happened to me before.  

It had me wondering how desperate for subscribers magazine publishers are becoming. Are we at the end of an era, not just for paperback books but also for magazines? How do I feel about that? 

I cant imagine a world without either, yet I rarely buy reading material in paper form. The only current magazine subscription I have is Sunset Magazine.  

Over the years, Ive watched magazines fold. The ones which survived have gotten smaller and smaller. The articles seem to scrape the surface of an issue but not go deeper. Are magazines in danger of fading away into the past, just as newspapers are? 

How do you feel about that?  

I feel sad because the next generation will never know the excitement of waiting for that next magazine, skimming through the pages, and delighting in the articles inside. Have you, too, succumbed to the digital age and the instant gratification of the Internet or eBooks and emagazines? Will magazines survive the digital age and morph into a new format to be read on tablets? 

I guess only the future will tell.


Savannah said...

I still subscribe to a number of magazines, but only their digital versions. I'll no longer buy paper magazines, but their digital versions often have enhanced content, video, etc. Plus I love that I can click on ads or brands in my horse mags and immediately load the associated website.

Susan said...

I used to be the same way, reading horse magazines and others from cover to cover. I stopped subscribing when it seemed like I was reading the same thing every month. I find it a little bit sad that magazines are having a hard time, but since I no longer subscribe to any of them, I guess I'm part of the problem.

AareneX said...

This hits close to home, because I *write* for magazines (print and online). Er, I'm not gonna quit the day-job, though.

I find that the more specific the magazine (sport-centric, rather than equine-centric, for example, or one that focuses on orchids rather than gardens) the easier it is to get articles published that have depth. The more-general mags are trying (somewhat unsuccessfully, as you note) to be something-for-everyone.

Several pubs encourage us to write flexibly--be willing to cut a piece very short for print, and also be able to "biggify it" if a space pops up in the magazine's online edition. I also always submit photos with articles, which I think makes them more appealing to stressed-out editors.

Personally, I only keep hard copies of really important issues. Everything else gets recycled within a few months. I don't want to dust them longer than that!

Unknown said...

The only magazines I subscribe to are horse related and Wired. I subscribe as a way to support the industry and writers, both of whom I adore. Given how cheap they are now, I know I'm merely functioning as a demographic for ad sales.

I don't really like magazines on my ipad, it just doesn't work well for me. Plus I take magazines for plane trips when there is considerable time to keep electronics off.

I'm renewing two mags this week. I hope they hang on a bit longer.

RiderWriter said...

Hmm... very interesting. I have a truly embarrassing quantity of Practical Horseman's squirreled away all over the house, some dating back to the 70s. I am just loathe to part with these relics of my past! I still look forward to the new issue every month, though. It's a good day when my PH is on the counter when I get home. Which reminds me, it's time to renew my subscription!

However, I was also extremely excited when I found a link to the current issue of Chronicle of the Horse online the other day. I am not and have never been a subscriber (too expensive!), but darned if I wasn't able to view the whole thing on my iPad (I don't know why but I'm not poking around to find out). THEN I found the Archive, and am now gleefully flipping my way through the last year's worth of COTH mags. I don't mind reading stuff on the iPad whatsoever, esp. when it's free.

One of my very most favorite non-horsey print publications, since I was a kid, was TIME magazine. I used to spend the whole week reading it from cover to cover. But they wrecked it good and proper around five years ago, and now I could give a rip about the print issue. I still look to the website and subscribe to the daily feed (free), but the print version? No thanks. No meat, shorter articles, too much white space, too small type. Almost the same thing with my also formerly-beloved Reader's Digest. Apparently they think nobody really does read anymore, because THAT is half the size it used to be, with dinky articles and more "filler" than in-depth stuff.

*sigh* The dumbing-down of America as evidenced by magazines...

CT said...

I will be very sad if print magazines die. Say what you want, it's hard to read an iPad on the toilet.

Alison said...

I agree on that 'reading on the toilet' comment!

I used magazines for research and for finding ideas, but now with the internet, it's so easy to go online. As a teacher, I witness the lack of reading in students (other than facebook)but as someone else mentioned, I guess I am part of the demise of magazines, too. I still want to read a real newspaper in the morning, but it's getting smaller and smaller. Soon it will be nothing.