The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
Magazine media continues to do what we have done for hundreds of years.
Humans are incredible. We have such a long history of solving problems and creating solutions, not only for our survival, but for the easing of everyday life. One of our most important and earliest technologies was the invention of writing and storing information for later use. Perhaps the earliest example of reading was the Ishango Baton, a bone marked with symbols of the phases of the moon. This “book” is an example of the transfer of information from the brain of one shaman to another possibly as far back as 25,000 years ago. This technology was one of the earliest moments of sharing out-of-brain memory.
If you think about it, reading is a rather simple cerebral process of recognizing and then decoding symbols placed on some sort of substrate. In the past these substrates were bones, cave walls, animal skins, and eventually paper. Reading enables the writer to store personal thoughts and important ideas and share them with another person, no matter how far away in either years or distance. The beauty of the technology is that the “old thoughts” will exist as long as the substrate maintains its legibility.
As humans are apparently born communicators, we have continuously pursued and used ever newer and more refined technologies of this reading/storing information process to change the condition of our lives. Today everything we do, both the very large and the very small, is guided by interconnected global technologies, none of which would have been possible without the advent of reading and writing. In no uncertain terms reading is what has made us, us.
There are areas on the globe that have limited technology, but those areas are quickly approaching connectivity. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the world population exceeded 7 billion in 2015. As it turns out there are almost as many cell-phone subscriptions (6.8 billion) as there are people on this earth. Many rural communities around the world have skipped the step of hard wired infrastructure and gone right to modern cellular networks.
All these new technologies have made our lives incredibly simpler and easier to navigate. There is no sector in society that isn’t on the technologic bandwagon. Not the food industry, the construction industry, the shipping industry, the medical industry or any other. They are all intertwined with every evolving information storage and retrieval systems. We, too, in the media industry have not only been affected by upgrades in reading platforms but have been totally transformed.
I like to think that the act of reading hasn’t really changed much in 25,000 years, with the exception of its ubiquity. Guttenberg took care of the ubiquity of information distribution by inventing a technology for the mass production/distribution of reading materials. Now history is repeating itself with greater and global access to any and all information on a 24/7 timetable.
Magazine media continues to do what we have done for hundreds of years. We store valuable information for sale. The value of our products in magazine media alone is in the multiple tens of billions of dollars and growing, depending on your definition of what magazine media is.
Many older members of the magazine media business feel threatened or, perhaps better stated, vulnerable as the technologic waves of modern reading transmute from a carbon based paper society to a silicon based reading lifecycle.
They fear the transition for two reasons. The first is the comfort factor, where it is unimaginable for some to find a genuine coziness in reading on anything other than paper. The other is the financial concern, where the old money-making revenue streams seem vulnerable to those who come from a paper society.
The truth is, in the blink of a technologic eye these issues will be self-resolved. Digital is already the largest advertising platform, surpassing all other media including TV, radio and magazines. The reading public will increasingly be comfortable with and want the technology they were born into, and, as history has shown, revenues and income always follow public sentiment.
This process that we call reading is an amazing technology that is still changing, growing and altering the human experience.