The Problems of Immediacy

The inevitable doom of the print publication seems to be a relatively commonly-held belief nowadays. Websites such as the seemingly now-neglected www.magazinedeathpool.com, of which Duffy speaks in her work Remake, Remodel, gleefully predict the doom of the entire industry. Far from overseeing the slow death of an outmoded dinosaur, Remake, Remodel paints a picture of hope for the future of magazines.

Duffy discusses at length the myriad ways in which magazines grapple with new media in order to ensure viability in the age of digital content. Though in retrospect the necessary realities seem rather obvious, as someone largely ignorant of women’s magazines and, to a smaller degree, magazines in general, I was a bit surprised by how openly magazines appear to have embraced digital content. Remake, Remodel informs the reader that women’s magazines labor exhaustively to connect to new digital spaces. These magazines have not clung on to an unsustainable model in the face of digital content’s inexorable approach. Rather, publishers have taken great strides to adapt to and adopt digital methods of content distribution and connection with readers as quickly as possible.

Duffy draws attention to a myriad of issues facing the transition of magazines from wholly print to partially digital entities. Of these, I found the need for immediacy particularly interesting. Many magazines encouraged subscriber interaction with the publication prior to the digital era, with interested readers mailing in letters to editors which might then be published in the actual work. However, the transition to a digital format has confronted magazines with a readership whose ability and desire to communicate has never been higher. Modern digital communications technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, and comments sections on official websites enable readers to give prompt and immediate feedback on content. Social media also results in a far more interconnected readership, where enthusiasts of a magazine can connect from across the globe to discuss the publication.

Though women’s magazines have taken action to adjust to the new digital world, immediacy poses serious problems for any entity attempting to adjust its business model to incorporate the Web. A few poorly-chosen words can quickly erupt into a full-blown scandal, as Web users rapidly spread content and exert PR pressure on the offending entity. (For a recent example, see the internet backlash against a recent tweet made by the Colbert Report’s Twitter account.) Appealing to millions of Web users who have thousands of options for content to consume at a moment’s notice is no small task, nor is appeasing those same users, who have the power to create a PR disaster on a moment’s notice.

Immediacy offers content creators the chance to leverage their fanbase with more speed, control and power than was possible under the restrictions of print. Despite these benefits, the double-edged nature of immediacy remains very real, and will likely continue to endure in the future. Women’s magazines, like many other entities, now grapple with the best possible ways to exploit and mitigate this new facet of content creation.

 

Citations

Duffy, Brooke Erin. Remake, Remodel: Women’s Magazines in the Digital Age. University of Illinois Press, 2013.

 

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