By Jenny Paulson / Publisher Southern Colorado Independent
While the new Southern Colorado Independent Magazine is about to be officially launched online and I thought I’d share some of the latest trends in the publishing business with you, that I have been a part of for 20 years. For many years us print publishers in the alternative media provided communities with cutting edge journalism and editorials, competing with usually corporate owned papers, and we did it well. It was about the time of the “great recession” of 2008 on that it seemed as though there was a heralding of the death of the entire medium of print. However in the past few years, to the relief of those of us in the publishing industry, the print industry is vibrant once again.
All over the nation various niche magazines are popping up. Bookstores are full of new titles. In part it is because of what some call “internet fatigue” by readers who are on digital overload in the social media. The new magazines are providing creative graphic design as well as engaging and sometimes investigative journalism to capture loyal audiences. Niche magazines are also providing an alternative for advertisers wanting the long shelf life of print. Most of the indy publications are self-funded and kickstarted, similar to Southern Colorado Independent Magazine, and the are published just two to four times a year with limited circulation numbers (usually less than 10,000 copies per issue). According to Vogue’s editorial: “What exactly is going on here? Internet fatigue, for one thing. As our Facebook feeds are increasingly overtaken with unread blog posts, disposable lists, and the general digital overload, a niche market has clearly opened up for whatever is the opposite of all this—an object with shelf life, a disinterest in newsworthiness, and, seemingly most of all, thick paper.”
Vogue recently did a poll of magazine publishers of the new indies and said that interviews confirmed that a reaction to the internet was at the heart of their impulse to go to print.“People want something they can hold on to, savor, keep, and refer back to,” Fiorella Valdesolo, editor of Gather, told Vogue. “There is something nostalgic about a magazine,” says Jordan Vouga, art director and founder of Ancestry Quarterly. “It’s substantial and you can smell the paper. It hits you at a subconscious level. I don’t get the same emotional connection with digital content.” Vogue researchers said although the new publishers, often in their 20s and 30s leverage social media and websites to connect with their readers, “they are all adamant that, when it comes to lifestyle content, print is the future.”
While daily newspapers continue to struggle magazines and alternatives are thriving throughout Colorado as well. One only has to look at the thickness of Denver’s infamous Westword to see that print media is live and well for alternative publishers. According to the Association for Alternative Weeklies they are here to stay so long a they are willing to adapt and change. Industry experts are confident in the future of niche alternative newspapers and magazines. But alternative doesn’t mean the same thing as it did 20 to 30 years ago. Publishers are increasingly selling ads on digital media as well as print. More publishers are selling services to gain even more income in a non-traditional way by selling the editorial, photography, graphic design, web design and video services to help clients create and improve marketing strategies.
Alternatives are smaller staffed and better poised to make changes to attract and keep their audiences, offering the type of independent community journalism and editorials the public is yearning for in this corporate world. Especially alternative media journalists are becoming more trained in to think in all forms of media including print, blogging and videoing. Staffs now how to learn online narrative styles and procedures for dealing with an active public because sooner or later they will all have something to do with the Internet, not just print. Journalists must learn how video, audio, photos and texts are used differently on the internet compared to tv, radio and print channels.
Large newspapers have faced the biggest problems in recent years while alternatives have had their comeback in part because of their overhead in mature markets and their over expansion. Larger-market papers have also been loudly criticized by media critics for not being invested in their communities the way they once were thanks in part to the growing out-of-town ownership and/or old style management. However there is a challenge for independent publishers too. While alternative magazines and newspapers started out as the fresh alternative, the current challenge is how to create continual interest in print and various mediums. “Even as they break stories, they need to become more collaborative with their audiences, building on pieces over time through social media feedback,”said one publisher.
Another publisher said that running an alternative magazine takes a lot of passion and perseverance, that it becomes a very personal endeavor. It’s like we’re fighting the good fight together, and I think that’s really the difference, producing really good journalism and not being so focused like larger newspaper publishers on the bottom line and profit. Alternatives offer perhaps the best hope of providing good local journalism in a sustainable business model. The media is in a time of transition where alternatives are leading the way and old time publishers in the industry too long are finally deciding it’s time to do something else or turn the leadership of old time papers over to someone else, say industry insiders. Alternative publishers says what creates and sustains the alternative media company the most is not just the focus on running a business and growing a company, it’s on bettering the communities which they serve.
Here in Pueblo there is obviously a niche for alternative magazines. Our community is up and coming and small businesses to large businesses will appreciate affordable adverting and the long shelf life of niche magazines. I began publishing niche magazines in Northwest Colorado with a monthly alternative called Frontier Magazine that I ran from 1994 to 2002. It was a fun, quirky magazine exploring the lifestyle and lore of that very special region in the corner of our state. As my business grew I started up tourist guides, dining guides and a real estate guide, that I expanded throughout Colorado and then throughout five states during the book, called Rocky Mountain Properties in the end. I also acted as an ad agency and produced campaigns for radio and tv. I quit my publishing business a few years ago because of a family emergency, a shooting that was horrific but ended with a miracle recovery, not because I believed print would go away. As I restart my publishing business locally producing niche online and print magazines for Pueblo, where I have lived now ten years, it’s during a period when the industry is plenty of indications that print is indeed here to stay. In fact according to a recent article in Vogue magazine, there is a great “indie magazine explosion” nationwide.
– Jenny Paulson, Publisher, Southern Colorado Independent