The iPad to the Rescue

Digital technology has undermined traditional news media, but tablets could prove the perfect partner for magazines, especially those offering long-form journalism.Technology has meant the death knell to many media publications, but the iPad and other tablets may lead to the resurrection of longer-form journalism in magazines. In fact more magazine titles were launched in 2011 than folded.

New evidence came last week when 28-year-old Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes purchased the ossified, century-old The New Republic magazine. "Five to 10 years from now," Hughes told The New York Times, “the vast majority of The New Republic readers are likely to be reading it on a tablet."

Hughes became fascinated with the magazine with a liberal bent because he believes there is a revival of interest in "high-quality, long-form journalism," which he said is a natural fit with tablets.

"Long-form or narrative journalism offers the chance for writers and photographers to reveal a topic in nuanced detail," says CFM's Doug Babb, a veteran media observer. "It provides the context for the bits of news we digest every day."

This is just the latest spin in the revolving world of media. "The irony is that the iPad seems to be saving magazines as people need content to consume on the device," observes Rebecca Bredholt, managing editor of magazines for Vocus, a provider of software to PR professionals. The demand for content, from local sources and around the world, fueled the growth in the newspaper industry last century.

As traditional newspapers plumb to new lows in staff and influence, many are finding a lifeline through their online editions. "We are seeing more and more editors in their 20s and 30s who have a grasp of the importance of digital and social media," says David Coates, the managing editor of newspaper content for Vocus.

Fearful of their fate, TV stations are concentrating more on their websites, sometimes in collaboration with local newspapers (think KGW-TV and The Oregonian), to capture viewers.

Perhaps the greatest surprise, according to a Vocus report presented last week, is the growth of radio listenership, which grew each quarter of 2011. Radio station managers have embraced segmentation and put all their energy into satisfying their segment, with demonstrable results.

Chris Hughes, who co-founded Facebook, purchased The New Republic, believing it can survive on the backs of new technology devices well-suited to narrative, contextual reporting.Another trend of note is the increasing coordination between mainstream media outlets and bloggers, who have become the ex-officio specialists who dog their topics and tap their sources, often breaking big-time stories, but just as often highlighting interesting consumer trends, tips on parenting and even recipes.

Media and blogosphere evolution may not be taught in school, Babb says, but it should be a subject on the curriculum of anyone marketing products, services or ideas. "Without this knowledge," he adds, "you may have no idea where your customers are listening or watching."