I wanted to discuss a topic that everyone seems to be interested in. I attended Alt Summit in NYC last week and the location was at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Martha Stewart herself made an appearance at the conference, which of course was life changing. I really enjoyed all the panels and the ideas the panels touched on. The panel with the Martha Stewart Living editors, brought up a topic I'm passionate about: the future of media. When I say the future of media, I mean the whole printed magazines versus blogs discussion. I have many opinions and observations about this topic. While I have no experience in the editorial industry, I do have 12 years experience in the advertising industry, which allows me to have a very different point of view. Plus, I'm a blogger who produces magazine style, original content.
One of the items that was discussed was how are blogs different from magazines.
Magazines have a few things going for them that blogs don't. First, there is nothing like the printed page. I go to my moms house and she has the Martha Stewart Living magazine from 1998 sitting out like she just got it in the mail yesterday. Blogs are very outta sight, outta mind. Yes, we have Google searches and people do pull up older posts, but it doesn't have the same impact.
Second, magazines have budget and talent. How many times have I wanted to pull props for one of our posts? Many a times, but keeping our blog simple with no sponsors, we have no budget for that. I looked at that prop room at Martha Stewart Living and DIED. I would completely change the look of our blog if I had access to all those choices. The improvements would be out of this world. But alas, budget is a restriction. And that leads to the next item, talent. On each photo shoot there is probably an art director, prop stylist, food stylist and photographer. When we do a blog post, it's just the two of us, and for most blogs, it's one person. (I'm very lucky that my husband is a photographer, and I can do the styling.) There have been countless times I have wanted to shoot something more complicated and call in a food stylist or find the time to make the recipe 10 times to get it right, but just don't have the time.
Let's switch gears. Blogs have a lot of things the magazines wish they could figure out. Blogs have personality and passion, the individual vs the company. Blog creative is done by one person or a very small team. That keeps ideas and visuals pure. They are not muddled up by someone working for a company and trying to please their boss. Blogging is not work, it's a passion. In a work environment, this is difficult to recreate, if not next to impossible. As a design director who manages creatives, I often wonder when the ridged 9 to 7 work schedule will be abolished and creatives can come to work when they need to meet with the team. It's experience that creates rich creative, yet they are stuck in an office to 'create'. Seems counter productive to me.
If we do something less than perfect by industry standards on our blog, I know and do it for strategic reasons. It looks real. I think styling in American magazines needs a serious overhaul. It can be very stiff and unrealistic, and I am counting down the days to when a more realistic styling will come into fashion by publishers. There is an art and craft to loose styling, and I personally will always be chasing that butterfly when I style for our blog.
Blogs also have no rules for content. We know our audience reads because they are interested in what we like. As long as we present it with an authentic point of view, it normally goes over well. Magazines have lots of loaded moves when generating content. I'm not speaking for all publications, but there is a reason a make-up product is featured in editorial and the advertisement for that product is on the facing page. (This same issue is even creeping into blogging, where sponsored posts need disclosure.) I often wonder when magazines will change their voice and point of view. Right now we live in a very instant gratification society, but as a consumer I crave more from publications. I don't want a recipe, I want you to show me a technique, then three recipes I can use my new knowledge with. The longer form of a magazine and the printed page make this possible. A blog is the place I would like to visit for a great dinner recipe and why the blogger likes to share that with their family.
As someone who is creative and in the branding and strategic industry, I have my eye on this topic. I want to see American magazines take some risk and set a new bar. In the mean time, I'll be blogging.