Saturday, December 11, 2010

Quote, unquote: Why newspapers don't create good magazines

Newspapers do fast food. Whether they're the McDonald's-like mass-market appeal of The Sun, the broadsheets' Caffe Nero or Prêt à Manger, or even the Daily Sport's late-night kebab house full of pissed-up punters, they're all in the business of efficiently serving large quantities to large numbers of people every day. They get the customers fed, they wipe down the counter and they start the prep for the next day's rush. No pause for reflection, no room for individual chefs' talents or differing ingredients. Like a fast food chain, they de-skill wherever possible, and aim for consistency rather than genius. It's a mass-produced item.

But magazines do restaurant food. They take time and trouble, and they genuinely care about the quality of the result. Often they can be the result of one person's vision, in a Gordon Ramsay/Marco Pierre White/ Raymond Blanc sense – think of James Brown at Loaded, Marcelle D'Argy Smith at Cosmo, or Tina Brown at Vanity Fair. Or they can be a great team who are deeply knowledgeable about their ingredients – ie their subject matter – and have a decent number of faithful, regular customers. Many niche mags are like the reliable local bistro; not earth-shatteringly innovative, but always welcoming and good value. There's room for variation and variety.
-- British blogger Chris Maillard writing a couple of weeks ago about why newspapers, at least British newspapers, struggle to produce a decent standalone magazine.

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