David Willey: ‘I Don’t Think Print Is Dead or Even Dying’

Echoing his So What Do You Do? interview from last week, Runner’s World editor-in-chief and current American Society of Magazine Editors president David Willey offered a positive view of the future in his address to the American Magazine Conference Tuesday morning.

“I don’t think print is dead or even dying,” the editor said. Still, he’s focused on helping ASME transition into the digital age, both with new groups such as ASME Next — targeting younger editors — and new digital guidelines. About these rules, which should be passed soon, Willey joked “at times, it has felt that we were passing a $700 billion bailout package.”

The organization recently hired Sid Holt to be its first ever CEO and he’ll be tasked with growing membership, raising ASME’s profile, and working with MPA to advance shared agendas on government affairs, audience measurement, magazine branded digital initiatives, sponsorships and sustainability.

As publishers search for more creative ways of getting advertising dollars, Willey admitted that “these church and state issues are getting more and more complicated,” jokingly suggesting an “ASME jail” on Alcatraz. The future, however, lies in collaboration between the two publishing arms. “The course forward must be steered not by technologists or marketers, but by editors and publishers working together,” he said.

But did opening up the Ellie nominations to online hurt print magazines?

RW‘s leader said people were worried when ASME opened the Ellie nominations up to digital and standalone newspaper magazines, but the rumors of print’s demise were greatly exaggerated. “The republic still stands,” Willey explained. “Just one online publication earned an Ellie nomination.” (And this was much-revered Christopher Hitchens in Slate, leading the president to conclude that content, not the methods of delivering it, was what mattered.

In the end, this was the ultimate lesson of Willey’s speech: “The best content will win. And we have the best content.”