We know where “Mr. Magazine” stands. Samir Husni, whom we interviewed in September, thinks magazines are inextricably linked to print:
I don’t think there’s anything yet online that replicates that immersion experience you get with print […] We collect magazines, hoard them, put them on our coffee tables. They can be a conversation starter, a relationship starter. When you’re online you have to bend forward, look at a screen, touch, click, search. But with print you lean backward, hold it in your hand – the magazine experience comes from inside the pages toward you.
For Husni, magazine reading is a solitary experience better suited to the comfort of your living room than the social web of the Internet. While magazines may attract like-minded people, he thinks the content is enough to make people feel connected:
I don’t think readers want to get together. I think they get satisfaction from being part of a community, yet acting on their own. The way we use magazines and interact with them is completely different from the way we use and interact with the Internet…In this case, readers connect through the pages of the magazine.
Not everyone agrees. Earlier this week we spoke to author, blogger, and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, who thinks the best asset magazine brands have is their subscription base:
Magazine readers are smart and brands have an advantage because they have a community already. Brands have to figure out how to mobilize and enable that community to do what they want to do.
Media scholar Susan Currie Sivek, whom we spoke to in March, specializes in magazine communities. She thinks a publication’s form is irrelevant, whether it’s print, online, mobile, or social media. For Sivek, magazines are fundamentally linked to our personal identity:
Certainly we have to move beyond the idea of the magazine as this printed and bound thing that’s on the newsstand or that comes in the mail. Fundamentally, if you’re reading a magazine, you’re reading it to be immersed in content that speaks to a part of your personal identity. I think that if you listed off all of my magazine subscriptions you’d get a pretty good idea of what I’m all about.
The New Yorker’s Web editor sees it both ways. Last month, Blake Eskin told us that The New Yorker’s print edition is “a meditative experience,” while the Web is “fundamentally a distracted experience.” But Eskin believes that a magazine brand can be extended into the digital space in complementary, and non-contradictory ways:
Some of it is a generational question. For a 55-year-old reader, the idea that someone might both be interested in reading a 15,000-word piece about a shooting in Zambia and also be an active user of Foursquare is kind of anathema. But there are a lot of 25-year-olds who don’t see a contradiction between those things.
What do you think?
Tell us: What is a magazine?