This is going to sound weird, like I have some kind of chemical-smell fetish, but when I buy my big wad of weekend newspapers I smile at the scent of them. I do. It is a familiar, comforting smell.
A smell that reminds me of being a child and collecting the daily paper freshly chucked onto our driveway by a teenager on a bike. A smell that instantly reminds me of just how much I wanted to become a journalist.
The other weekend, as I threw down the latest wad of forest onto the passenger seat of the car, I recognised that my nostalgic reaction to newsprint is now tinged with the knowledge that this freshly printed scent will, one day, be a thing of the past. A memory of the senses.
Not that the regional news company I write for is going out of print any time soon, there’s still too much invested in the infrastructure and consumer habits of print for that to happen yet, but eventually all roads will lead online for print media, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a sad thing. Despite my nostalgia for the printed page, I find it exciting to watch the possibilities within the digital world unfurl. Of course, money must still be made –journalists, photographers, designers and editors must still be paid - but once we get that minor detail ironed out (ha!), online is where we are headed and we need to embrace it, or be left behind as “heritage media”.
Mass media is still getting its collective head around this new digital reality. Open newsrooms and pay walls are being experimented with in news land, while glossy magazines are making the hard decisions between dying in print or risking life online. Some are choosing to call it quits altogether: The Bulletin in 2008; Notebook and Domino in 2010; FHM in 2012... the list goes on and on, these are but a few Aussie titles.
|image via veggiemama who is featured on this cover (love this photo)|
Now Peppermint Magazine has announced it is going online, in addition to its printed version. A good move, I say. For a magazine that prides itself in championing all things green, it makes sense. Fewer trees sacrificed for “Minty” to live, while print costs, a major killer of gloss magazines, potentially reduced. How the mag fares online will come down to whether the masses are as willing to embrace – and pay – for the digital version as the physical version.
Mamamia editor Mia Freedman wrote on ABC’s Unleashed last year: “I don’t pretend to know how magazines can re-invent themselves to keep pace with the needs, wants and sensibilities of modern readers. Perhaps we’re seeing the beginning of sunset on magazines in the same way albums and CDs are fast becoming niche items of nostalgia.”
Some clever cookies, including Freedman, have heeded the siren’s call and plunged straight into the digital waters without a backward glance: The Hoopla, Crikey, Mamamia and New Matilda are a few Aussie titles that come to mind, while more and more I am seeing personal blogs morph into online mags, and bloggers into editors. A local example is Common Ground Byron Bay. CG is a visual blogging feast of localised photography that has such a niche readership that it would be barely viable as a weekly or monthly printed product, but online it works splendidly.
What I find as fascinating as the explosion and experimentation of online magazines is the emergence of a counter-revolution with new printed “mooks” and “zines” titles springing up. Two US examples are KINFOLK – a quarterly publication (that also has an ipad version) and Taproot – a new ‘zine produced by blogger and author Amanda Blake-Soule of Soulemama fame that will be available only in physical form.
On introducing Taproot, Soule wrote: “At taproot, we believe in place. That in this modern world with technology and noise coming at us from every and all directions, that we need even more real and tangible skills and connection in this world. Which is why you won't find taproot as an online magazine. You won't find us on Facebook or Twitter. We won't be one more place online you need to 'keep up with.' And you won't find our pages full of the noise of traditional print advertising, either."
For what it’s worth, I predict that as surely as we will see, in our generation, mass news media consumed exclusively online, we will also see more of these small-run products pop up where the objective is less news-breaking and mass readership, but an old-school, intimate and tangible consumer experience that readers are willing to pay a premium price for.
Interesting and exciting times we live in.
And you, dear reader – what do you prefer? Paper or screen, or a cocktail of both? Are you happy you can get Peppermint online now? (I am!)