Print fashion magazines have long been a guilty pleasure of mine. There’s nothing like sitting down, opening a good magazine and becoming lost in its pages. I love the smell of them, the sound of their pages turning, the feel of their paper between my fingers, and the way they look on my coffee table… To me they have all the senses covered!
Whilst I believe there will always be a place for print magazines, I’m closely following the discussion surrounding their future because I’m interested to see how they’ll be affected by the uprising of digital media. My viewpoint in a nutshell is that one is not necessarily better than the other. I appreciate and embrace both print and digital media, but recognise that they offer different reading experiences.
In a recent interview for The Age, former editor at Russh magazine and now contributing editor at Oyster magazine, Stevie Dance, was asked whether she thought websites, blogs and online publications would eventually overshadow our lust for glossy magazines. She responded by saying:
"I hope not. I think that they serve very different purposes. I think it's the same thing as saying, 'Why do you go to the movies when you can watch it free online at home, why do you go to a concert when you can download the song?' I think that all those different narratives of how we interact with creative forums are valid and I don't think one takes over the other."
The dynamic of the media industry and the ways in which we access information is most definitely changing. We are no longer limited in choice and people are reacting to this change in different ways.
Household publications such as ‘Vogue’ are now concerned with the upkeep of their brand and with maintaining relevance. With so many platforms now available, it's about setting themselves apart from the clutter and offering something unique. What can their print magazine offer readers that other online publications can't?
Former editor-in-chief of Vogue Australia Kirstie Clements touched on this in a recent interview with Pedestrian TV. She spoke of the importance of maintaining credibility and how they use their access and their knowledge to set their magazine apart from blogs and other publications.
She also discussed the ways in which they distinguish Vogue Australia’s magazine from Vogue Australia’s website:
"...from the beginning we had to start to work out what is website news and what is print news...what kind of layers do we put on the stories in print to make them more significant than the things you would pop up online...You just have to sort out the priority of how fast the message goes out and how deep the message needs to be. Obviously deeper in print and more newsy and bitty for spontaneous media."
With Kirstie’s words in mind, the choice between digital and print depends on the value one places on content. Often what you find online are mere regurgitations of press releases and the promptness of updates means they lack analysis, depth, imagination and original point of view. Online blogs and magazines often get caught up in being first and thus pay less attention to detail. It’s more about publishing something before everyone else does than publishing something of a higher quality. In print magazines however, a lot of thought goes into the content, the layout, the voice, and the images. The articles are drafted and then re-drafted and then edited until they are deemed worthy of going to print.
An array of print fashion magazines still exist, many of which have not created online versions (e.g. ‘Lula’, ‘Indie’ and ‘The Gentlewoman’). Print magazines continue to be popular within the fashion industry and are still considered very relevant - even those that are only issued quarterly. Some magazines are now being printed with hard covers, opting to look more like books than traditional magazines. ‘Grey’ and ‘Self Service’ for example come with hard covers and look lovely alongside my coffee table books. Something as simple as a hard cover can make a magazine longer lasting and more special than the digital alternative and as time goes by, I believe it will be more important for print magazines to place this greater emphasis on being something you keep / treasure.
When discussing the relevance of print media, one cannot underestimate the power of nostalgia and the desire for something long-lasting. There are always going to be developments in technology that will influence the media, but this doesn’t mean the old will necessarily become irrelevant. For example, people still see the beauty and purpose of records and choose to buy them over more modern alternatives, even though they’re not as convenient, accessible, or cheap as current technology.
Those with a keen eye and a love of fashion photography will also stand by the fact that photographs cannot be fully appreciated on the computer screen and are worth keeping for future reference and admiration. Fashion photographers such as Paolo Roversi, Tim Walker, and Venetia Scott, among many others, feature regularly in established print magazines and just like art, their work is something people will always refer back to.
This is not to say that I am completely anti-digital. Being anti-digital would mean denying the many advantages that come with digital media. I cannot deny that this digital platform has given me the chance to share this article with people other than my family, and so it would be silly for me to disregard these kinds of benefits.
Digital is opening up new opportunities for budding writers and journalists (I use these terms loosely, as the blogger VS journalist debate needs a separate article all together) to express themselves and to inform others. People are being given the chance to hone in on their writing skills and develop a real voice online, and the cost of print is no longer stopping people from being published.
Living in Australia means living a great distance from the fashion Meccas of the world and in turn, a great distance from the cities in which many fashion publications are based. Digital media bridges this gap and means we no longer have to wait for access to many international publications. They are only a click away and one’s financial circumstance does not dictate whether they can or can’t have access – well, not yet anyhow.
I have been able to learn a great deal about the fashion industry through having access to digital publications, as they are incredible resources in their own right. Whilst I acknowledge the positive influence digital media is having, I do hope my dear print favourites stand the test of time. In my mind, there’s just no way that print could ever be entirely overshadowed by digital.
With that, I’m going to close the lid on my laptop and lose myself (again) in the latest issue of Lula magazine. My hands, which suffer from self-diagnosed RSI, will definitely thank me for the break.