Friday, June 30, 2017

Why our preference for print is misleading

I love print on paper. Most people who read magazines love print on paper, perhaps because it is so very convenient, perhaps because they like the look of type and the feel of the stock. That's why we say we "prefer" to read on paper when someone asks us.

But as Dr Joe Webb reminds us, preference surveys "track the way people believe they used to do things, not new behavior, nor does it indicate future behavior."

This quote comes in a longer piece that ties together the cost of using the US Postal Service with Mary Meeker's annual survey of media, technology, the economy and more. Dr Webb was prompted to write it because the president of the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA, the US equivalent of the UK's PPA) called into question Meeker's motivation and impartiality.

It's a longish read with a specific US context but worth looking at for the more universal points he makes. Like this further thought on preference surveys, for example:

They do not track frequency, or volume of usage. And when studies report things like “70% still prefer medium A,” that conveniently forgets that until medium B came around, medium A was 100%, and that it was the only choice. Being at 70% is actually loss of almost one-third of the hearts and minds of marketplace, not a reason for celebration. By presenting it that way, the survey makes a particular condition seem better than it is.
Sadly, preference surveys encourage producers of medium A to stick with that medium at a time when they should be using the surveys to show the urgency of being involved in medium B, or better yet, figure out how mediums C and D will affect B and A. Preference surveys say something nice and make the entrenched class readers feel good, but the surveys are not really strategic, tactical, or actionable, and give competitors more time and freedom to encroach on their business.

Many magazine publishers are looking at B, C and D, of course, but nostalgia for print – perhaps bolstered by an apparently thriving print-based indie magazine sector – continues to skew the view from some perspectives.

I love print – but most of my reading is done on a screen.

Major hat-tip to Bo Sacks and his wonderful newsletter.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

A classic of magazine craft on screen

Paper magazine's collaboration with Posture is a classic of magazine craft. It comes in digital form but draws on very traditional tropes and techniques

1) It combines great photography with pithy copy in the form of first person interviews;

2) The interviews are short but revealing and thought provoking (and either the interviewees are very articulate or there has been some first class subbing);

3) The topic is niche, in the sense that it concerns a subculture (or set of subcultures), but socially important. That importance is likely to increase, not least at the influential margins of politics: as the New Yorker's serio-comic explanation of the recent UK general election result (written in the ever-popular quasi-biblical style) noted

And the young people said, Jeremy shall bring peace unto all nations, for he hateth the engines of war that take wing across the heavens. And he showeth respect for all peoples, even unto the transgender community.
And the elders said, The what?

4) The reader comes away having learned something and with plenty of material for contemplation and self-reflection;

5) It makes a whole series of serious points without preaching.

This is the feature (23 photographs):

This is Paper's introduction:

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