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Altered States (of print)

Posted Sep 09 2007 12:00am
Altered Gryphon
When the men on the chess board
get up and tell you where to go
And you just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving slow
Go ask Alice
I think she’ll know
- jefferson airplane

The trick of course is to mix the right about of peyote with enough time in an isolation chamber. Soon enough you’ll be reverting back to your primeval self and smacking yourself against walls as you fight not to become one with the universe. Yeah, well I loved that movie. Sure the effects are a bit cheesy by today’s standards but every time I see William Hurt pacing around a table of friends rambling on about the state of humanity, I swear someone’s had a camera hidden in my ceiling. Of course others tell me that “The Mosquito Coast” was my personal biography! Who me??

But what got me thinking about Altered States (yeah my mind goes crazy ways. . ) was actually the time I’ve spent over the last couple days catching up on my paddling magazines. They’re changing. Have you noticed? Yeah, Adventure Kayak has always had a bit of personality. And recently Canoe & Kayak and Paddler (the US version) have become, well, a bit “edgy”. Suddenly we’re reading about drug use and straight talk about global warming. I loved the line in Paddler, “Arizona save your tears”. Great article too. Of course Ocean Paddler is new and while it presents like “Vogue” for kayaks, the writing is well, human. It feels like “real people”. Great! Of course Sea Kayaker maintains it’s more stalwart approach, and I guess it’s not a bad idea for someone to stick to “tried and true” journalistic tradition as the climate shifts around them. To my mind, it’s all good.

It’s a question I’d asked in this blog sometime ago and a question of survival for all print media. How do you compete with the constant drumbeat of the internet? Monthly magazines by their nature are almost always printing old news by the time it hits the mail box. Blogs and other websites are running with every bit of news out there in real time. And if you get lost you have websites like playak.com bringing it all together and condensing it. Then with high-speed becoming more common, websites can provide high quality images, video, interviews, podcasts, integrated mapping and so much more. What’s left for a magazine to do? Even if you count on those few people (like myself) who still like to sit on a couch and hold real paper in their hands, you have to accept they are a dying breed. The ADHD, multi-task generation is here. These days we want our news fast and multifaceted. Just look at CNN these days! In the “biz” they call it “media snacking” where the new audience wants everything in condensed 45 second snips. (Yeah, I can hear the gray beards groaning!!) Even bloggers realize that readers want, “short and to the point”. Yeah, I’ve not been good with that one!! LOL!

The one thing magazines have left, their ultimate save, is well, content. (old news right?) Readers may not turn to them for news, most people in my experience feel the reviews are a bit questionable, and they are certainly not looking for the details of the last ACA meeting. (I mean, we get the mailings.) But as the print media is learning, people do want great stories, beautiful imagery and well, personality. Readers want to not only be informed, but they want to FEEL something. It’s not about agreeing with the writer, it’s about knowing they are down to earth, no BS types. You may not agree, but you don’t doubt their integrity.

As the paddling magazines pursue this new world, they will certainly divide readers. People will choose the magazine that fits their paddling “world view”. Some will enjoy the proper formation of sentences and long un-emotive trip reports, Some will want to hear opinionated diatribes while sitting in their living rooms yelling, “Right on!” to no one in particular, Some will just pick the one with those big glossy pictures and fantasize about their next personal adventure. Let’s face it you can’t please everyone. A person or magazine, or blog for that matter with an overt personality will not appeal to everyone. The trick for print of course is to reach out to a wide enough audience to keep your subscriptions up and your advertisers happy. That’s the balancing act of this little revolution. Thank god bloggers don’t need to answer to free market pressures!

There have been many times since I started this blog that people have asked me, “Why don’t you write for a magazine?” Well, my first response of course was, “yah, right!”. My next answer is “well, nobody asked”! But the reality is I’ve thought of contributing and yet, every time I looked at the rules and regs that some magazines put on contributions my eyes would roll into the back of my head. I’d think, “how can I write something so dry and emotionless??”. I’d fall asleep writing it, let alone expect others to read it. Ewww! It’s just not me. Oh, and I can’t spell worth a damn either. (thank god for editors). Blogs give you the opportunity to write in “free form”. You can play with ideas and poor sentence structures to create new ways to get your point across. You can just run with an idea and see where it takes you. You can rant about personal, social, or environmental views, you can even (as the brits like to say) spend a little time staring at your own “belly button”. In the end it’s all good. I hate to think of it that way, but bloggers, writers, magazines, whatever. . they are. . WE are, just “entertainment”. People will read us, if for whatever reason we entertain, inform, or inspire. It’s simple.

My hat goes off to the new altered state of print. It’s a new world out there and I’m glad to see most are taking the challenge and thinking in new ways. I’m actually excited again to see my mags in the mail! So run with it guys. Shake it up, make new friends, force others to toss your magazine in the trash, take pride in those happy new readers, and those nasty letters to the editor. Take the message. You’re stirring it up. Sure, we all enjoy the occasional flat water, but it’s great to see some of you writing in “Class V” mode!

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