How could we have been getting this wrong for so long?
34 years, to be precise.
It's no secret that the news business is in crisis right now. Specifically, daily newspapers seem to be going the way of the Betamax with the speed and force of a post-blizzard avalanche. Journalists being let go by the hundreds. Newsrooms gutted. Salaries slashed. Two-newspaper cities becoming one-newspaper cities. One-newspaper cities becoming no newspaper cities. Case in point: Denver, home of Colorado's oldest newspaper and winner of four Pulitzer Prizes (just in the last decade). The Rocky Mountain News , gone forever. Other papers, while not ordered to stop the presses for good, are being bought and sold like stained Cabbage Patch kids at a yard sale.
How can this be happening?
I'll tell you how. And I'm ashamed that it took me this long to figure it out.
They were reporting the news. Doing the legwork. Checking and balancing. Investigating. Reporting. Getting to the bottom of it. Digging and prying. Keeping 'em honest. Being journalists. Investing in the product. Maintaining editorial integrity.
What were they thinking? There's no money in that!
Thankfully, we here in the magazine business aren't suffering like the dailies. People still love their magazines. And we love them for it. And we here at Memphis magazine love our city, but we also love our business.
And we don't want to suffer in the future like our brothers and sisters in the daily biz. So we're not going to.
As a wise man once said (probably a journalist): An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.* So for the fiscal health of our literary baby, we're changing our format, beginning with the May issue.
Take a look at this issue. Flip through it carefully. The pages that are strictly editorial are marked with color bars to help guide readers through the magazine. Well, no more. From now on, those color bars disappear, along with straight reporting. We're moving to a straight advertorial (a cute term coined to explain the difference between a paid ad and straight reporting). Yes, it will be sad, but heck, it'll be a lot less work for all of us editors and reporters on staff!
Readers have a love/hate relationship with ads. But the fact of the matter is – in all seriousness — they are what keep us in business. There's an advertising-to-editorial ratio we maintain (well, until next month), that never lets one side outweigh the other. Translation? For every ad page, there is a page of straight reporting. That's how this lovely publication pays for itself. Or did.
So keep your back issues, and fondly recall the award-winning pieces about unsolved mysteries, adoption-for-profit, book reviews, murders and bank robberies, and yes, I'm sorry to say, Ask Vance.** It just has to be this way. Next month, any reporting or article you read will be paid for or "sponsored" by a business or organization. (I believe the Commercial Appeal describes this model as "monetizing content.") That doesn't mean the information won't be valuable, or look nice and pretty and shiny. It just means that someone paid us to say it.
Look, other publications have been doing it for a while. At least we're being honest about it and letting you know in advance. You will get used to it. It will take time, but I promise, you will.
While many of you would love to see all magazines free of advertising, it's not a feasible business model. Magazines without ads have a name. They're called books. And the book business ain't exactly booming right now, either.
So enjoy this, our last issue containing straight reporting.*** And make sure to pick up next month's copy, weighing in at a whopping 456 pages! Worth every dime!
The Memphis Magazine Staff
* Benjamin Franklin said this. Because the current issue still has straight reporting, we wanted to clear that up. It was a joke.
**If you'd like to sponsor the Ask Vance column, call 866-FOOL
*** We hope you enjoy April Fools Day as much as we do. The aforementioned "new magazine format" will last for exactly 24 hours, beginning April 1st.