WHAT I LEARNED AT MAPPING THE MAGAZINE

Earlier this year I delivered a paper at the fifth Mapping the Magazine conference at Columbia College in Chicago. And what an inspiring event it was.

Those of us presenting papers were a mix of academics and practitioners teaching at universities around the globe. Each presenter delivered insightful concepts, which addressed a few of the key challenges faced by the magazine industry today.

Not only did the presentations demonstrate an astute awareness, but many also generated some exhilarating discussions and debates. Not to mention some great networking opportunities which may lead to collaborations in the future.

Why are such conferences important? 

Founded by Tim Holmes, a senior lecturer in journalism at Cardiff University, the conference’s chief aim is to bring together international magazine scholars interested in magazine publishing from a research perspective.

While there are numerous such events focusing on news, magazine-focused research tends to take somewhat of a back seat, often being included as an agenda item at news orientated conferences.

Such a provision is somewhat inadequate when compared with the amount of research focused on news and its media outlets. From my perspective, this is something of an oversight because research is much needed in this industry.

Despite recent struggles following the digital disruption era, the magazine industry forms an important part of media and therefore offers a rich opportunity for in-depth study. According to Statista, in 2017 the States has more than 7,176 consumer titles, while in the UK the PPA represents around 200 publishers operating in the UK. Such statistics show that magazines are hugely valued by their readers, yet many publishers are struggling, highlighting an opportunity for research.

Stronger collaboration between academic research and industry could be the way forward. Why? Because increasing such collaboration would undoubtedly create more opportunities for research and collaborative projects. In turn, this is likely to lead to innovative problem-solving in the industry, possibly resulting in new ways forward in terms of editorial and business models.

Therefore, in my opinion, there needs to be more magazine conferences to drive collaboration. But with university research budgets at an all-time low this is unlikely to happen in the current climate. So perhaps instead of rejecting funding applications for such events, the question university budget holders should be asking is how can we afford it?

Where there is a will, there is a way. . .

Read my latest article in InPublishing discussing the key topics of the conference – affordance, magazines as a community and my paper titled, Lessons from the past based on the first chapter of my latest book, Business Strategies for Magazine Publishing.