It’s always a sad day when a seemingly successful company announces resignations, so when the chief executive and finance director (Stevie Spring and John Bowman) announced their individual departures from Future Publishing during late October, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in contemplating the future of, well, Future.
The resignations come after a turbulent summer for the publisher, which saw 100 staff cut from primarily print roles to make “headroom” for those with digital skills, and to help save £1 million a year. In May this year Future also reported a 45% fall in profit, and this is enough to make any shareholder approach the Annual Results Announcement on November 24th with significantly raised blood pressure. [drop]
There is no denying that these figures suggest a worrying time for Bath’s biggest private employer, but is it simply that or do they highlight the beginning of the end? I sincerely hope that it’s the former, not only because the company plays large part in my own aspirations, but because I think that print is largely beneficial to the industry and also provides a unique experience that simply can’t be replicated by an application or webpage.
But before I justify print’s presence, I think it’s important that we try to understand why the aforementioned figures are in the state that they are in. The somewhat simplistic theory of print becoming a defunct medium is certainly valid, but I fail to believe that the accessibility of the internet is the sole reason for the decline. It could be argued that the current economic climate is where to shift the blame; after all, if people need to save money they will inevitably cut back on leisure activities first, a category of which print firmly falls into.
Of course, it could the fact that print hasn’t evolved enough to meet the demands of a modern demographic; in an age where instant gratification is yearned for, magazines should possibly be smaller and to the point This would not only be an attempt to serve the needs of a shifting demographic (much as the i newspaper has), but would also allow the price of print to drop. Although, then the issue of profitability rears its head; too cheap, and there won’t be any point publishing in the first place.
Whatever the reason, the salient point is that if the current trend continues videogaming will not be represented within the newsagent, and this is something that I think is invaluable in attracting new people to the hobby as well as cementing its part in mainstream culture. I am also yet to find a Smartphone or tablet that fits my lap as comfortably as a magazine when I’m holding a coffee. No, print doesn’t automatically update with news as it happens, but I’m also not being disturbed by incoming texts or emails, allowing me to have a well-deserved break away from the sometimes suffocating world of the internet.
With this lack of connectivity comes something else; a lack of community input. Initially you may find the inability to reply to an article frustrating, but certainly not as frustrating as reading an ignorant and abusive comment from a so-called expert in the field.[drop2] Cyberspace is never completely reliable either, so if you ever need to reference something or simply need to read about videogames whilst your internet is down, you’re in trouble unless you have a healthy selection of magazines to fall back on. You might think I’m clutching at straws, but only when you have been in one of the said situations will you realise what an amazing resource print can be.
Progression is obviously vital, and major redesigns of EDGE and PSM3 (which are both ace, by the way) highlight that the industry is evolving to combat modern technologies, with increased amounts of exclusive content and even the inclusion of QR codes in an attempt to introduce the interactivity commonly associated with the internet into a print based format. Applications such as Zinio are also emerging as worthwhile alternatives to picking up a magazine in a newsagent, and provide the same quality journalism and insight from within a neat, digital package. Apple newsstand has already seen over 4 million downloads of Future titles since its launch on the 12th October, and hopefully this sets a secure base for things to come.
There is still a large interest in magazines and the content that they provide, and if you are one of those who simply dismiss the medium as being irrelevant in today’s society then I would encourage you to think again. Print harbours so many benefits over pixels, and to lose them would be an absolute tragedy; I eagerly await Future’s annual results later this month, and sincerely hope that they pave the way for a prosperous and successful 2012.