Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Print media is going up in flames this week.

First came the news Friday that my beloved Radar—the only magazine I’ve ever subscribed to—has folded. Then the Star-Ledger, which has been having massive problems the past few months and is on the brink of extinction, despite being New Jersey’s largest newspaper and the 15th highest-circulation in the country, will cut almost 40% of its workforce by the end of the year.

And today, the Christian Science Monitor will cease publishing the actual physical newspaper during the week and become online-only in April.

My heart bleeds for the rapid demise of this once vibrant sector. It’s not that no one wants to read a newspapers, it’s just they’re expensive (I love my Times, but I debate every week if it’s worth the cost), and it’s easier to read things online. But subscription services may not be the way to go, either—TimesSelect was notoriously unpopular, fettering access to some of the best parts of the paper, the opinion section—since many people won’t bother to pay for it.

While they are many things I’d rather read hard copies of—Time, Newsweek, RollingStone, long magazine articles found in the Times Magazine—it often seems superfluous for me to pay money for content I can get for free, through other means. Indeed, if I didn’t have an outlet for getting my hands on so many different magazines, I would probably be broke buying everything I want to read. But truthfully, I like hard copies. A lot. I can go over the same passages, make notes if I so desire, carry the information with me, take in the whole thing as part of a package. But I understand very well why many people—especially young people—have no interest in print. It’s money, money that can be spent elsewhere. A lot of information can be found online or on television. Paper is a valuable resource, and then there’s the space and time it takes up. Recycling is no match for the environmental ease of emailing. Online offers links within the articles, easily accessible sources and support, which just aren’t there in print. A sidebar is not the same thing.

Yet I want to support the newspaper industry as much as possible. Besides, a printout of the article isn’t the same as the actual article, with graphics and fancy fonts and nice paper. The former may get yellowed, but it becomes a treasure, while a printout is just a copy, likely to get thrown out.

Radar collapsed not for lack of trying—it was on its third incarnation—but because it was a print publication doing what blogs like Gawker and Daily Intel do on a daily basis. Gawker itself summed up why it has finally ceased publication: basically, it suffered from bad timing. Although Radar’s blog, Fresh Intelligence, managed to grab scoops, it treaded on territory already run into the ground—snarky, funny takes on anything to do with entertainment. And in this media landscape, “Pop. Politics. Scandal. Style.” was covered everywhere else. In fact, entertainment coverage is dominated by what seems to be a singular voice: snarky.

Radar was never derivative. It was often hilariously, laugh-out-loud funny, and they dared to mock established magazine covers, including Vanity Fair’s infamous Tom Ford cover.

Radar followed the pedigree of Spy and Talk, two magazines that also ultimately folded because they couldn’t build up enough capital. Radar, in fact, is from the hallowed halls of Tina Brown’s Talk; Maer Roshan, Radar’s editor-in-chief, worked for Talk, New York, and a host of other cool magazines.

I still have all my back issues of Radar from the last year. I never got around to finishing most of them (that’s the problem when I buy, not borrow). There was a time, in high school and on the first incarnation of Radar, where I briefly dreamed of writing for the magazine. Now I can’t even dream of writing for their blog.

Continuing coverage of this story is best found on Gawker. And just for the record, I’ve always disliked American Media--the company who bought out Radar's excellent website—whose clout came largely from Bonnie Fuller, who I hold responsible for practically everything wrong in America.


John said...

Aw, man! I liked the Ledger! I'm also sad to hear that Radar has folded for its third and final time, but I never managed to get around to reading it in the first place. Was it in any way related to dailyradar.com?

It's a sad thing to see so many print publications closing their doors. Thank goodness comics are an entirely different beast, one that has been dragging its feet on the path toward the digital revolution.

Emily said...

Sometimes I think about starting up my NYT weekend subscription again just to help them out, but I always feel guilty wasting all that paper, especially when I don't get around to reading the whole thing.

MediaMaven said...

John--Daily Radar was apparently a gaming site with no connection to the magazine.

Emily--I didn't know you canceled your subscription. If I don't get to an article that weekend, I save it to read later. I actually feel guilt when I print out an article online, cause I know I'll most likely throw it out later.

mikhailbakunin said...

Boo-hoo, poor Luddites lamenting the Digital Age. "Oh, we miss the wonderful, tactile experience of reading a newspaper. Technological progress is awful!"

I'd continue to make fun of you all if I didn't have to immediately answer my BlackBerry.