A Life on the Frontier
I’ve always wanted to know more about George Armstrong Custer. In the hands of Pulitzer Prize winning author T.J. Stiles, Custer’s life is sure to be a wonderful read. My copy of Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America is already on the shelf. As Stiles says in this NPR interview, “We see him as the hero who died to spread civilization, or we see him as the bloodthirsty, arrogant military commander who has complete disregard for indigenous life, or we see him as the heroism and the valor that, you know, Americans imagine as being part of the American character. What we need to do is not get caught up in any one sense of Custer.”
The State of Consumer Magazines
In his piece for Folio title Assessing the State of the Consumer Magazine Print Business, Baird Davis writes that the industry’s transition from print to a hybrid digital format has been more difficult than could have been imaging five years ago. “In the rush to the digital future, publishers have taken their eyes off the print-ball.”
Davis’ article relies on analysis of print performance, along with information gleaned from “two recent interviews: one conducted by Samir Husni with Bob Garfield, media columnist and critic, and the other a W Magazine interview with Condé Nast’s Bob Sauerberg.” In his intro, Davis writes that magazine publishers are no longer able to change the economics imposed by the digital revolution. One confounding aspect is that while the audiences continue to grow, CPMs continue to go down. Garfield also says in his interview that “although the company’s monthly visitors have increased 33 percent in the last year to 87 million, company revenues decreased, primarily because of continued weakness in print advertising.”
“Their comments perfectly capture the transition dilemma facing consumer magazine publishers,” writes Davis. “The Sauerberg interview demonstrated that publishers, even ones as big and successful as Condé Nast, still depend on print advertising to support this difficult transition. And in both interviews there’s a resigned acknowledgment that there are no easy revenue solutions in today’s media world, where the consumer magazine industry’s major competitors now include Google, Facebook and Amazon.”
It’s a prescient observation of today’s magazine environment.
A Buyer Centric Content Strategy
"Most marketers no longer need convincing that content marketing is the key strategy to engage customers,” writes Carlos Hidalgo in the October issue of Chief Content Officer. “But too many organizations try to juice returns by generating more content through more channels at faster speeds. Such an approach is doomed to fail.”
Why do they do it? It’s the technology, writes Hidalgo, and the increasing number of options: cloud-based platforms, dynamic web pages, a wealth of social media channels and countless other innovations aim to help marketers automate processes and scale their efforts. Just push another button, and better and better tools will make marketing magic happen.”
Hildalgo outlines a plan for developing a real buyer-centric content marketing strategy. I would recommend all marketers read his story. “The key question is not how fast, how easily or how much marketers are able to disseminate; instead, you must ask what kind of content will best connect your brand with your buyers and customers.”
The History of Cartography
Called the “most ambitious overview of map making ever undertaken,” by Edward Rothstein in the New York Times, The History of Cartography, published by the University of Chicago, is now available free online. The first three volumes can be found here. “People come to know the world the way they come to map it—through their perceptions of how its elements are connected and of how they should move among them,” wrote Rothstein. “This is precisely what the series is attempting by situating the map at the heart of cultural life and revealing its relationship to society, science, and religion.”
From the University of Chicago site: “The first volume of the History of Cartography was published in 1987 and the three books that constitute Volume Two appeared over the following eleven years. In 1987 the worldwide web did not exist, and since 1998 book publishing has gone through a revolution in the production and dissemination of work. Although the large format and high quality image reproduction of the printed books (see right column) are still well-suited to the requirements for the publishing of maps, the online availability of material is a boon to scholars and map enthusiasts.”
The Court and the World
"In his new book, The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer details why American courts no longer have any choice about involving themselves in the law beyond U.S. borders.” Listen to his interview on NPR.
Frank Lloyd Wright on Religion, Education and Nature
Frank Lloyd Wright shares his unique perspectives on religion, nature and education in this rare clip from June 1957.
Recently: Your Life as a Monthly Magazine
Love magazines? Like to see your life’s experiences in their pages every month? This recent article about a new app called Recently captured my attention.
It’s simple. For a simple monthly fee of $8.99, you can upload a set of your recent photos and have them printed and delivered in a monthly magazine. Davie Pierini writes in Cult of Mac, “There are a number of apps that offer analog products to encourage iPhone photographers to archive their cherished photos before a thief or a hard drive crash wipes out those memories. Many of the apps focus on print services or allow users to design simple photo books.”
Pierini quotes a recent review as well:
“In a world that has slipped all too quickly into a digital world, it excites me to see a concept like this one,” photographer Kevin Dotson wrote in a customer review on Recently’s iTunes page. “I’m an old-school photographer who still likes to actually pick up a photo book with his hands. This app is PERFECT for my desires and needs.”
An app such as this may bring my love of magazines and personal photos together in quite a unique fashion.
Montaigne on Self-Esteem
More from Alain de Botton, author of The Consolations of Philosophy and founder of The School of Life: A Guide to Happiness: How Six Great Philosophers Can Change Your Life. Here he talks about how Montaigne can speak to all of us as we feel we often don’t measure up. (Courtesy of Open Culture.)
A Crisis in Nonfiction Publishing?
While mainstream publishing might be getting dumber by the day, writes Sam Leith in the Guardian, there’s hope for the future. We might be living in a golden age of publishing: University presses.
“Where 15 or 20 years ago the big trade publishers were, oddly, swamping the market with sort-of-scholarly micro-histories of salt or longitude, they now seem, with exceptions of course, to be tiptoeing away from specific, knotty, deeply researched and nuanced books about things,” writes Leith. “The sorts of book on which they tend now to rely are investigations of “big ideas”. Their lodestars or exemplars are the Malcolm Gladwells and Daniel Kahnemans and Nicholas Carrs. I do not mean to denigrate those individual authors, rather to say that they produce a particular type of work.”
These aren’t the types of books that deepen our understanding of the world, he writes. Instead they follow a formula to sell. “The disproportion between the size of the question proposed, and the simplicity of the pretended answer, is the primary marketing hook.” The interesting risks are now being taken by smaller university presses: “The stuff’s there for taking.”
The Next Generation of Digital Journalism
Michael Massing has a great story in the June 25 issue of The New York Review of Journalism titled Digital Journalism: The Next Generation. In it he tackes the questions about mission and impact that beset digital journalism in general, which include long-form journalism, citizen journalism, and the fact that many of the important memorable pieces are still featured in print outlets. Another issue he examines the inability of digital media to establish a general audience. “There’s been an explosion of narrowcast sites providing in-depth coverage of single subjects,” he writes.
“On virtually any subject these days, you can find opinionated, informative, provocative sites and blogs. There’s Feministing on feminism, Tablet on Judaism, PandoDaily on Silicon Valley, The Millions on books, Inside Higher Ed on academia, Balkinization on the law, Aeon on philosophy, ALDaily on arts and letters, Deadspin on sports, and on and on and on. By geographic region, there are sites on cities (Voice of San Diego, Baltimore Brew), states (Texas Tribune, MinnPost), countries (Tehran Bureau, Syria Deeply), and the world (GlobalVoices, GlobalPost, Goats and Soda). As traditional news organizations shrink, NGOs and advocacy groups are helping fill the gap,” writes Massing. Nevertheless this “narrowcasting” has its downside.
“What does seem undeniable is the effect that audience fragmentation has had on the ability of journalists to have an impact. With so many sites and outlets competing for attention, it becomes harder for stories to find a foothold,” writes Massing. “Paul Krugman has praised economic bloggers for elevating the quality of discussion in that field, but it takes someone like Krugman writing regularly about such matters in the Times for that discussion to reach a broader audience, enter the political discourse, and make a difference.”
It’s a great piece. I encourage those with an interest in the future of journalism to read the entire article.