I no longer subscribe to many printed magazines but I still always look forward to receiving a couple of my amateur radio publications, QST and CQ magazines, each month. I really do enjoy reading about our hobby and appreciate the authors who contribute to these publications (for very little money in return). Shoot, I even study the ads, including those that have not changed in decades. (Why do some vendors insist on showing the faces of every radio by every manufacturer, as if we make our purchasing decisions based on those tiny thumbnails? And will MFJ ever change the full-page Hy-Gain rotator ad?) I always feel good when I open the mailbox and one of the magazines is in there, waiting for me. It usually lies right there on the hearth next to my recliner where I can pick it up and read an article whenever the mood strikes.
But, for example, as I read the short writeup on the exciting new Elecraft KX3 portable transceiver, I recalled that there was a YouTube video posted way back on May 20 featuring Wayne Burdick K6XR giving a very enlightening ten-minute demo of this interesting bit of kit. Posted the same day it happened. Video. In full color. With sound. That I could pause, back up, re-run, and go back and look at anytime I wanted to without having to subscribe to and save a magazine or riffle through a bunch of musty, stacked-up old mags to find the one that had the article I wanted to read. I just went to YouTube and pulled up the video. It took me all of 20 seconds to find it and get it running.
Is the KX3 story old news in CQ? I’m afraid so.
ARRL recently did a major update on their web site, but though they are trying and it does give us quite a bit of content, it is still clunky and hard to navigate. It does offer some video (welcome to the 21st century) and plenty of archived articles and reviews, all of which is much more current, colorful, and searchable than the magazine could ever be. CQ is also trying, buying World Radio News and offering it as a free PDF download. However, it is still basically a "print" magazine that can be read on a computer monitor (can ONLY be read there unless you print it out). It still seems to have many of the same disadvantages as any other printed pub, though. It just happens to be available on the Internet instead of showing up in the mailbox.
I would hate to lose the printed magazines, though. I have to worry that the day will come when it is no longer economically feasible to mail me a magazine every month. I still prefer taking that paper-and-stapled thing out on the deck to read on a nice morning. Or along with me to Subway at lunch to peruse while I enjoy my Black Forest ham sandwich. And am I the only one that has trouble reading things on a monitor--even a big one--when I have to scroll and click?
Won’t happen, you say? The traditional magazine will never go away. Okay, what was your favorite article in your latest copy of Look or Life? Mind if I borrow your Saturday Evening Post? There was a time when magazines argued that they could offer more in-depth reporting and analysis than newspapers or radio/TV. More pretty pictures than you could ever get in a newspaper. No longer true. Google "Dayton Hamvention" (146,000 results) or "Elecraft KX3" (13,400 results) Any publication offering that amount of stuff would not fit into my mailbox!
I rest my case. Truth is, media consumers want their content in a wide variety of ways, and will choose such media on three primary criteria:
1) How easy it is to consume in all those myriad ways,
2) How compelling the content is, and
3) How cheap it is to access.
We see it happening with books, movies, television, music and more and it amounts to a revolution. Some media will not fare well unless they figure out how to monetize--the new buzz word for all media--or subsicize some of the old ways of distribution. As in any revolution, there will be casualties.
I’m afraid that does not bode well for QST and CQ.
Don Keith N4KC