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Journalism, Writing Tips

The Pulse of Print in 2018

Every year, Dr. Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, sees hundreds of new magazine launches firsthand, reading and studying the lifecycle of publications. Nicknamed Mr. Magazine, Dr. Husni certainly has his pulse on the magazine industry – from each new breath of life to every last dying gasp for air produced by the content curators of the world. But fortunately for journalism students and writers already working in the industry, print is NOT dead. And so says the expert on the field himself. Keep reading for some highlights of Husni’s recent report on the state of print magazine journalism.

Shorter Attention Spans

In the time it took for you to read the introduction to this blog post, you already got distracted and thought of something else at least twice. Whether checking your Twitter feed or making a grocery shopping list in your head, it is evident that human beings have become more distracted. In fact, according to Husni, the average American adult’s attention span has declined from 12 seconds in 2016 to a mere eight seconds today – just one second more than that of a goldfish.

So why do we have shorter attention spans? Most experts would agree it is due to overexposure to stimuli, though the subject is still widely debated. According to Husni, “today’s average consumer is exposed to 2,900 media messages per day.” However, they only pay attention to 52 and remember four. So how can print media compete?

The New Hope

Some magazines launch, and some die – even good ones. It’s a fact of life. “Everything has a natural lifecycle, so why shouldn’t magazines?” Husni asks. “Magazines are folding and launching all the time, but their overall number continues to grow.” That’s the good news.

In fact, according to Husni’s research, there were 131 new magazine launches in 2017, and 103 already this year alone. The keys to success lie in several factors he outlined in his presentation, “14 Magazine Media Myths Debunked and 10 Lessons Learned,” at the Magazines & Books at Retail Conference in New Jersey on June 12, 2018.

How to Stand Out as a Publication:

  • “It’s no longer print versus digital; it’s print plus digital. The two are equally important in an integrated, omnichannel brand.”
  • Magazine editors and publishers should be “content curators and solution providers — including insights about the next trends and developments of importance to them.”
  • For reader-friendly content ideas, “take a few readers to lunch, to hear their feedback and concerns in a relaxed, informal setting.”
  • Great content should “create and share experiences that drive engagement.”
  • “Provoke emotions – whether that’s a laugh or smile, or a frown or tear.”

These tips will help any magazine – new or established – stay afloat at least long enough to gain and keep a decent readership. The rest is up to fate (and your ability to innovate).

What About the Bots?

To this day, modern journalists see automated content creation from computer programs known as “bots” as a threat, but that isn’t necessarily true. For Husni, he still believes human journalists will be crucial for content creation in the future. Why?

  • “Magazines are about creating trust.”
  • “Finding an expert to interview, to review, and validate the curation is essential to the credibility of what magazines and magazine media offer.”
  • “Magazines produce ‘real human’ models, ‘real human’ information, and ‘real human’ trust factors [not computer generated ones]. The curation of honest content and factual material is a must for us in this world of fictitious people and misinformation that we live in.”

So do you feel better now? You should. The future of journalism is in your hands.

Follow Dr. Samir Husni on social media @mrmagazine and on his blog.

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Photo by Nizhniy Novgorod on Unsplash

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