Death of Print: How Standards Could Kill, Though They Aim to Save

By Matt Van Hoven 

A piece in the Times today covers Parent & Child magazine’s decision to sell ad space on the cover and the American Society of Magazine Editors’ response that the move constitutes a violation of the group’s ad guidelines. Although P&C aren’t part of ASME, we can’t help but wonder when someone is going to step up and shout, “the only true standard is survival, and surviving requires evolving, and evolving means not doing things the way they used to be done.”

Newspapers have already adopted the front-page-ad trend &#151 in New York and other major metropolitan centers, papers like AM and Metro are free ad-supported dailies handed out in high traffic areas. Often, their entire front cover contains an ad, and more ads appear within these pubs where traditionally the more important news nuggets would be found.

As the market corners publications, including magazines and newspapers and blogs, it will be up to their leadership to recognize that what once was standard can become more than a restrictive guideline aimed at “bettering” the news. Indeed, for printers following ASME’s rules, they could mean financial doom &#151 all for the sake of what, purity?

Since the first story was printed on paper, the question of who would pay to keep the words coming has been atop the proverbial editorial priority list. And as words migrate online where access is unlimited and paying is laughable, “standards” will increasingly limit good publications from earning moola. But there’s no honor in sinking with the ship here, because the net result is people losing their jobs &#151 all in the name of…of what?

It’s laughable that publishers pretend their content isn’t paid for by burying ads inside. Most magazines fill the first 10 pages with them anyway &#151 taking away from space where words could be printed. Why not earn more by putting the ad up front and give your readers more content in the process?

Oh, or how about we start selling Kindle-ready magazines?

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