system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Why I read Vanity Fair

David Armano recently posted a video of Bruce Nussbaum on the future of newspapers here.

It mirrored a conversation my partner and I were having about print media. As a former deputy editor on the features section of the Daily Telegraph, she has a better view than most about what could revive the fortunes of old print media.

Our conversation revolved around why I still buy Vanity Fair.

I get my news via RSS, I haven't bought a CD in 10 years (file sharing ain’t killing music kids here) or a daily newspaper in 5 and yet I still spend (I don't even know how much - but its a lot) every month on the magazine. I'm as committed and loyal a reader as they have - but why Vanity Fair particularly?

Much of the reason lies in content. Pretty much everything it cover,s resonates with me (politics, economy, arts) - and the stuff that doesn't, I read because my loyalty has bread trust

But enjoying the content is only some of the story. If it stopped there, like music, over time I would have migrated to free – I’m sure there are plenty of bloggers creating equally compelling content I could have for nothing.

I buy it because I love the editor. Through his editorial and the content he commissions, I feel a human connection to Graydon Carter. He’s not everyone’s favourite of course. But he is mine. He is the sensible dad I never had, and the mate I always agree with. He has created a tribe out of his magazine readers. Being a part of that group defines me. I use it as social capital and it tells me who I am.

If there is a future in print media then it is this. Human, local and tribal. Focused around particular personalities with short budgets and long editorial reigns, who filter the world for their particular constituencies. Our current obsession with machine based, learning algorithms for content is yet another giant mis-allocation of capital.

In the final analysis, it might be strange to suggest it, but we humans care less about what we're reading and more about who is telling us to read it.

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