How Blogs Are Making Some Magazines Better

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yesterday, as I sat in the hospital lobby waiting to be seen, I flipped through a magazine. It was a design magazine and a pretty famous one at that. I've read this magazine religiously for the past few years, and it is excellent, but as I read through this particular issue, I was surprised at how boring it was. The writing was sloppy. The ideas were creatively lazy. The advice was trite and useless. I closed the magazine, looked at the spine and saw that the issue was from March 2003.

"Well, that explains it," I thought, "This was published before the design blog boom." 

Design blogs started getting more attention in 2004 and seemed to hit their stride in 2005 and 2006 (to compare timelines, wedding blogs began to get more attention in 2007 and hit their own mainstream stride in 2008). When it became evident that blogs were here to stay AND here to compete, nabbing a part of the advertising budgets traditionally allotted for print along with several of the perks, including book deals and TV segments, many magazines reacted in one of two ways: they tried everything they could to discredit the blogs or they tried to emulate the blogs. Both reactions were mistakes, and too much energy was (and still is) spent on criticizing and copying instead of on creating something truly visionary. 

What struck me about this magazine I read yesterday, is that they took the third, far less-traveled approach. The issue from 2003 was terrible. The issues for the past few years have been remarkable and better than what you'll find on any of the design blogs. I looked at the masthead to see if anything had changed over the years, perhaps a change of guard. Nope. In the face of new competition, they hadn't replaced editors, they simply stepped up their game. They made their print edition SO good that you have to buy it because the blogs don't even come close to the magazine's newfound level of excellence. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to say that about every magazine?

Wouldn't it be nice to say that about every company? There's an old saying, "trials make you bitter or better".  The same can be said for competition - it makes you bitter or better. Today, there is more competition than ever, and several of the new faces are ridiculously talented and are changing the game. You may be tempted to either discredit them or emulate what they're doing. Avoid both routes. Channel your energy into making what you do even more amazing. People will notice.

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