This week Dr Samir Husni, founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism and New Media, tells us why magazines are the ultimate new media. He explains the wild ride that was magazine publishing in 2020, his print evangelism, the benefits that digital brings and his favourite magazine. Oh, and why he’s called ‘Mr. Magazine’.
In the news roundup, Chris and Peter discuss Twitter getting into the subscription business, why Facebook is allowing people to monetise misinformation, and if Nextdoor is the future of local news.
The full transcript is live here, or see below for highlights.
Becoming Mr Magazine
Simply put, I’m the man who loves magazines. I fell in love with magazines when I was 11 years old, when I bought my first copy of Superman when it came to my original home country, Lebanon, when I walked from our apartment to the shop and picked up a copy.
What nobody knew back then is that I’m still continuing my hobby; that became my education, that became my profession. I tell my students every single day, I have never worked a day in my life, I’m doing the exact same thing I did, collecting magazines, designing magazines, reading magazines, researching magazines. Since that first day I bought that copy of Superman.
Print in the pandemic
It was amazing to see how people returned to print, because of all the screen fatigue that they had. Almost every publisher I spoke with has seen an increase in their print orders and in their subscriptions to their magazines.
We were bombarded by bad news on our television screens or our mobile phones. We had the pandemic, then we had the social unrest, then we had the killing of George Floyd. So everything that was coming our way was a bombardment of negative, depressing information. And there comes the magazine in your mailbox, there comes the magazine on the newsstand saying, you know, cheer up, life can still be good – make this recipe, relax a little bit, read this piece of fiction. Have fun.
BLM and magazines
It was the celebration of blackness that appeared like never before in the history of magazines. I have so far, just from the last six months of 2020, 336 magazines that have black subjects on their covers. This is almost five times more than we had in the last century, combined. Magazines that have never had a black subject on the cover. This is an amazing, amazing change. Some may say we are probably overcompensating, but to me there is no such thing as overcompensating.
We’ve never seen such a massive change in the social responsibility for all of magazines as the one that we’ve seen starting in June of 2020. And it’s still continuing, magazines all of a sudden are listening more to their audiences and to their readers. Look at what happened with Vogue with Kamala Harris when social media erupted that that’s not a good cover.
The era of those celebrity editors is reaching an end – I think we have very few celebrity editors left. We are seeing a major return to the brand as the influencer rather than the person behind the brand. Take an example, if you read anything in The Economist, can you tell me who wrote that thing? Or are you going to tell me, ‘I read this in The Economist’?
This is the major difference between now and what we’ve seen in the 90s, where editors became bigger names than the magazines themselves.