Going the Way of the Dinosaurs
Remember the Gary Larson cartoon titled "The real reason dinosaurs became extinct"? It showed three dinosaurs huddling behind a large rock, puffing on cigarettes.
An updated version of this cartoon could be titled, "The real reason newspapers and magazines became extinct" and show a person lining a birdcage with computer disks. But the cartoon would have a limited life–future generations probably won't get the joke.
Still, there's no denying that newspapers, magazines, and other print publications are having a difficult time surviving. More and more consumers are going online to get their news and information, and advertisements (and advertising dollars) are following them. Publications that used to be revenue centers are becoming cost centers, forcing publishers to cut staff, publish less frequently, and even close their doors. Association publications, including Information Outlook, have not been immune from this trend.
And yet, notwithstanding these developments, some magazines are thriving, gaining new readers and attracting advertising. How are they doing it? By focusing on what magazines do best–providing in-depth coverage and analyses of topics that are narrowly targeted to specific audiences. Whereas the Web excels at casting a wide and shallow net, magazines are better suited to mining a narrow but deep field of information.
To be successful, then, magazines must know their readers–their needs, their concerns, their interests. Information Outlook has already taken a step in this direction by assembling an advisory council of SLA members to help provide editorial direction. The next step, to be taken later this year, is to survey the SLA membership about their information needs and wants. The survey answers will be used to evaluate existing content and determine whether a different mix of articles, columns and departments will better meet the information needs of special librarians.
In an association with a wide range of communication tools at its disposal–a Web site, blogs, wikis, discussion lists, e-newsletters, and more–a printed magazine has to be able to make a strong case that it is providing a valuable benefit. By completing the survey when it is posted on sla.org later this year, you can help ensure that Information Outlook keeps you apprised of the latest thinking on issues that affect your job and career.
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