Commentary: Turning The Page

Do you miss holding a magazine in your hands?

Some of us do, while plenty of us do not. Those of us who do recall the days when you head to a newsstand, pick up the latest edition of our favorite magazine, flip through the pages before giving the seller a five-dollar note. You might get some change from that fiver, if you are lucky.

Those of us who do not think highly of the magazine conveniently glance at our mobile device for the same effect. You might get the nice photos, the readable text and the oft advertisement, but does it have the same feeling? Instead of giving some money away to a newsstand seller, your fiver is included with the monthly bill from your mobile carrier. You might say there are some similarities between yesterday and today.

It is a well-known fact that the printed publication has been losing favor to more electronic means of reading material. This trend spurred debates and discussions about how to retain the level of support – advertising, readership metrics, actual measurement of impressions and feedback – in an increasingly electronic form of media.

Yet, how does one capture the essence of a printed piece of enthusiast lust without using any form of paper?

You may have heard the phrase "there's an app for that!" It is true – those of us with smart phones and mobile tablets are amongst a growing readership for traditional and new media publications. You could read the latest Motor Trend or Road & Track cover to cover without seeing one at the local grocery store. You could also read V&R using the device's browser, along with Autoblog, Jalopnik, The Car Connection, Cheers & Gears…and so forth.

On my iPhone, I have an application that delivers the latest edition of Lavender magazine (one of the other outlets you could read my automotive material). I click on the Newsstand app and click on what looks like a copy of the magazine. After a fake cover pops up, a selection of issues appears by cover. Just click the cover and you get a menu, which is actually a table of contents. To find my work, all you have to do is flick your finger to scroll down to see the words "Ride Review." Once you click there – it just pops up. Simple!

Using the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or an Android device that can do this operation is seen as the future of print publications. The publishers said the same thing about the World Wide Web about a decade ago – before the iPhone became all the rage. The question remains whether any of these electronic devices would ever replace something so pure and natural as the printed page. Rather, have we forgotten about the magazine to adapt to an electronic format for good?

I still do get the printed version of Lavender. I do so for the purpose of archiving my work in that magazine. Some may accuse me for my age, but I still get that tingly feeling when I pick up a copy, see that bearded version of me and look at the photos and the text to see if it looks good. It is worth reading – has others have said the same thing.

OK, it is an ego thing, but it took over a decade to get to this point. It still feels good, though.

At the Twin Cities Pride festival in Minneapolis last weekend, I did an experiment using the latest edition of Lavender while working the North Country Bears booth. At Pride, the local LGBT magazine is not distributed directly on the festival site. You can get a copy within a block or so away – if you could find a few copies left. A few people did pick up the magazine and flipped through it. Others just stared at it and walked away.

One gentleman remarked that you could not get a copy in the Fargo-Moorhead area anymore. The distribution of the magazine depends on any location that would carry it. Since the bar closed in Moorhead, the local LGBT community center picked up the distribution until recently. It was not clear why the center no longer carried the magazine.

I explained about the iPhone app to this gentleman, which he balked at. Not everyone has a smart phone or tablet device that is capable of electronic delivery of the magazine. To reiterate, this is the reality we live in to capture the essence of the work we do in this segment of the media.

Hearing about the distribution issue was a bit concerning, since I viewed the Fargo-Moorhead-Grand Forks market as part of Lavender's footprint for readership. Though some in this market would read the material online via the web or on their mobile device, there are still some who appreciate the feel of the printed edition. In some cases, a paid subscription would do. However, the gentleman I talked to had issues with the delivery of the subscription to his home. From my understanding, it was not the magazine's issue. Rather, the issue is on the delivery end of things. That is a huge can of worms that I wished I would simply avoid getting into…

It means a lot when someone flips through the magazine, and sees my (then) bearded face with a huge photo of the vehicle I reviewed in said magazine. It is an ego stroking moment – albeit afar. The same affect actually works on an app, though there is a loss of lament with the feel and texture of a glossy piece of paper.

Yet, here you are – logging on V&R's website to read this commentary. Perhaps this is a sign that the future is here. I suppose I am used to it – just like you are. V&R actually shows up quite well on the iPhone’s Safari browser – as long as you pinch outward to read the text.

And, if you are looking for an app for V&R – no, there is not one for that.

Print will still be around. It is not going away any time soon. The magazine still serves a useful purpose – to kill time at doctor's offices when you are told to turn off your mobile devices, that section of your flight when it ascends or descends between the runway and 10,000 feet and where your mobile or Wi-Fi service is completely non-existent with a very low battery life to work with.

At least you are reading. A person who reads is a good person indeed. You should be honored and thanked for your readership. That makes us writers happy – no matter the media or the delivery of our work.

All photos by Randy Stern

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