Monday, October 03, 2005

Jon Stewart. Not the guy to book for comic relief.

Jon Stewart helped bring Advertising Week to a deservedly ignominous close by skewering the magazine industry. (Amazingly, the Magazine Publishers of America paid him $100,000 to for the privilege. Thank you, sir, may I have another?) Leading magazine editors had their egos deflated when Stewart told them, "I didn't say you don't have your place. It's at the children's table."

Regular readers will know that I'm a Stewart fan. While I think his dissection of the print media is dead-on when it comes to mainstream magazines, I think he misses another side of the story.

The magazine publishing world — insular, flush with hubris and Manolos — is ripe for criticism and change. Stewart's main point was about relevance. And indeed, mass print has become largely irrelevant. Newsweeklies are largely ignored except by those with bad teeth and prone to regular dental office visits. The celebrity-driven magazines produce nice numbers but the advertising in them seems to be pure wallpaper — people rush past it to get to the really good stuff about Brad and Jenn or how fat Britney is following the birth of her child.

So what does Stewart ignore? The fact that print with a tightly focused editorial slant remains relevant — perhaps even increasingly relevant. A reader of Dwell magazine is completely immersed in the magazine — the advertising is a part of the experience. Esquire appeals to a certain kind of man who's beyond the world of Maxim and the glut of lad books. A magazine like Outside draws readers in because it's a trusted guide — appropriate advertising is actually valued by the reader.

There's not a place for all kinds of mass brands in these publications, but they are a powerful medium for products and services that complement the editorial mission of the magazine.

Kudos to Stewart for going mano-a-mano with the breakfast-at-the-Royalton crowd. He's absolutely right that the mass print media can't shape an agenda or, like television, shape and influence the opinions of the American public. But I'm quite sure there are publications he enjoys that are light years removed from the ones he trashed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guitar magazines are another good example of ads being a big part of the reading experience.

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