This week, the garden writing community was abuzz with news: Meredith Publishing Company laid off 250 of its employees, and ceased publication of Country Home Magazine. Another magazine, The Growing Edge is also shutting its doors. This follows closely on the heels of the end of Cottage Living and House and Garden.
I don’t know about you, but as a reader, I’m worried about print media: the newspapers, magazines and books I read when I’m not participating in the blogosphere. Although, I admit I now subscribe to fewer publications, it’s not only due to time constraints. Some of them just don’t interest me anymore.
As a freelance writer, if I had to depend on writing for my bread and butter, I’d be wringing my hands. However, thus far, I’m still able to write, without worry of personal famine.
Partly due to HH, I still subscribe to our local newspaper, The Oklahoman. Once, it had an entire gardening section, but, now, we’re lucky if gardening gets a single page, and the local writers seem to be limited to very small columns of timeworn tips.
How will that get readers excited about gardening? Even if newspapers feel like they’re going down first with the print media ship, why not go down in a blaze of glory?
- Add a little pizzazz to the articles. Readers can get headlines and quick information from numerous online sources.
- Offer local news and interesting, well written information.
- Use local writers and get local editors to manage the sections. I, for one, don’t want to read another bland Associated Press landscaping story.
The Oklahoman’s online page opens up with local info. I will give them that.
I wrote a piece for Examiner.com about buying your gardener a magazine subscription for Christmas. I love blogs, but I still want to sit on the sofa, or in the carpool line and spread a magazine across my lap. They have the space to delve more deeply into a subject, and to produce large photographs that most bloggers can’t replicate, and many computers can’t load. I need those photographs and beautiful words like I need food.
I don’t believe magazines are in as dire shape as newspapers, although they’re feeling the pinch of fewer advertisers. For example, I haven’t heard Oklahoma Gardener is having problems, but writers are always the last to know. With an economy in recession, more magazines will fold, but perhaps, we’ll see the return of such venerable ones as Taunton’s Kitchen Gardener since I keep reading that folks are more interested than ever in growing their own food. I haven’t seen that burgeoning interest in my own friends who are managing teenage and college bound children, but they are a small microcosm of the world community.
Books. Well, I still buy books, and my friends buy them, although we read so many, that we’re likely to buy some of them used from Internet sources. Used books don’t help authors, who are paid an advance for their manuscript, and then additional monies once their books sell a certain number of copies.
Readers, a few suggestions:
- Buy more new books.
- Support your local bookstore. Amazon is great, but local bookstores do a lot to support local authors.
- Join a book club.
- Frequent your library, but also take your children to bookstores at least once a month and more often if you can afford it.
- Tell your kids they can stay up 30 minutes later if they’ll unplug, go in their rooms and read. It’s worked for our family. Three of our seven bookcases are filled with children’s books.
Those are some things the consumer can do. Publishers have been extremely slow to change, and change they must. I will probably never get a book published after writing this, but the truth is, New York City is no longer the center of the publishing universe. Small, efficient publishing houses have sprung up all over the United States, and many writers are pitching and selling their books themselves. Agents take note.
In the writing and publishing community, self publishing was once a dirty word, but I’ve noticed a trend: lots of writers, both good and bad, are writing and then publishing through their own ebooks, or through Internet sources like Lulu and Tastebook (which helps you create cookbooks). I am not endorsing either of these companies, or self-publishing, but it is a revolution of sorts because these online publishers also promote and sell the books on their webpages.
Most traditionally published book writers are finding more and more that they must provide their own publicity. Last week, Amy Stewart used an creative and ingenious video to promote her new book, Wicked Plants, debuting in May 2009. It helps that her brother is a professional, but using video to promote print media is smart. It can potentially reach those elusive twenty-something readers. Writers, she also has her own simple and effective web page, and she finds the time to write for two blogs, her own and as one of four regular contributors to Garden Rant.
I realize part of this is a natural progression of technology and that whenever there is a great change in such, there is a shakedown of old technologies. Still, I wonder what we can do. I don’t have the answers, but I proposed some observations. Now, I’d like to hear yours because you are the smartest cookies I know.
How can we help print media stay off life support? As my former pastor, John A. Petuskey, said, “Questions, comments, snide remarks?”
I wish I were not buying so many new books, but I don’t think I will ever be able to stop my addiction. There is nothing better than a brand new book in my hands. I don’t care how referency or trashy or ephemeral, I love books.
We have 8 completely full, floor to ceiling, double stacked bookshelves. I am drowning in books!!!
Katie´s last blog post..Growing Greens in the Cold
Hi Katie, we don’t have that many shelves, but we are also drowning, and we went to the bookstore today. It was full of folks and fun to see everyone in town buying books.~~Dee
I love both blogging and print media; there is a time for each. It’s like asking a mother to choose which child she loves best…impossible! I admit, though, that since I found Bloggerville, I’ve cut way down on purchasing periodical publications.
I had to smile at your mention of “The Oklahoman”, I never see a copy of it that I don’t think of my father-in-law, who passed away in 2006. He was never without a copy of it, he would read on it all day long!
Nola´s last blog post..91st Psalm
Well, Nola, he’d sure have trouble now. It’s only about five pages in length somedays. Pitiful. I’m with you. I love print and online media, and I think we’ll see a blending of the two eventually.~~Dee
I worry about this also, Dee, since like you need photographs and beautiful words like I need food. I also have filled bookcases in each room of my home (and could use more 🙂 and cupboards stuffed with treasured books & magazines. My children grew up surrounded by books and though all are big into the Internet, still need the written word in hand.
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Excellent post, my dear…I cannot imagine not being able to hold a magazine or newspaper in my hand! It’s part of the reading experience. As long as there are books, magazines and papers printed I will purchase them! Gail
Gail´s last blog post..A Little Whine Helps On A Gray, Cold Day
Country Home Magazine gone? Oh, dear. That was one of the few I liked. I bought a number of magazines today, looking at decorating ideas. I do enjoy them. Hopefully this is a culling time.
And yes, New York is no longer the hub of the publishing world, or the hub of the world in general. Nashville has for some years been coming up as a major publishing center.
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Linda at Meadowview Thymes says
Dee, I subscribe to 3 garden magazines. I go to bed everynight reading them..or other books on gardening. Our local newspaper used to have a seperate section every Friday called Garden and Home. I lived for Friday mornings! Now they split them up and put them witht the movies! I am so mad..I am reading about growing winter veggies right next to what the new horror film is. I know they are trying to save money, but I am not a happy subscriber!
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That is a very handsome bookcase!
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Bill Aldrich says
Excellent overview Dee. And thanks to Mr. McGregor’s Daughter for singling us out for comment. As a small magazine publisher, we are even more attuned to the economy than many businesses. We are seeing advertisers tightening their belts, requiring us to come up with innovative solutions to allow them to connect to customers. One innovation is our winter issue, in which we incorporated several unique “planning” concepts at a considerable cost to us. Advertisers saw value in the concept. Would readers see value? So far, we are very encouraged as both mail and online subscription orders are running far ahead of last year’s pace. We feel the paper product still has its place but it needs to serve more functions than just something pretty to display on the coffee table. Keep up the good work.
Bill Aldrich, publisher
Yvonne Cunnington says
Here in Canada, our magazine industry is smaller, and we have to compete with all those magazines from south of the border.
Recently, one of our national gardening magazines closed shop after a dozen years. It was sad, but there isn’t enough ad revenue for two national gardening publications at the monent.
I used to write for both of these magazines myself, but now I’m working exclusively in web publishing on my own site and blog. A sign of the times.
There definitely is a shift going on, and the traditional media are having a hard time figuring out what to do on the net. We live in interesting times.
Yvonne Cunnington´s last blog post..Jan 10, Grow geraniums from seed
Dee, very good post on a topic that I’ve been thinking about lately. I also love to read garden magazines (and books) but I’m not sure that just subscribing to them is what will save them. As I understand it, it’s the lack of advertising that is causing a lot of the turmoil in the industry. Just compare last year’s Fine Gardening or Horticulture mags to this year’s. This year’s is much skinnier, right? Lack of ads. I noticed in this month’s Horticulture that they had over 10 pages that were not written by them or freelancers but came from folks on their blog! A cheap way to go and it doesn’t cost anything. So hmm, I guess the logical thing is to support the advertisers they still do have??
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As a subscriber to several magazines and purchaser of at least 6 new books per month I’m not happy with the direction publishing is heading toward. I think that the media itself has to take responsibility for getting out of touch with its customers. I’ve canceled magazine subscriptions because they no longer appeal to the original readers. They need to find out what readers want and stop the cheap spreads featuring antique shops and gift shops. Of course that’s just MHO.
And, Marnie, as always, a very good and well thought out opinion. I have to agree with you. If the magazines keep getting smaller and dumbing down, there will be nothing left to read. Perhaps, someone will read your comment and think.~~Dee
Lisa at Greenbow says
I hear what you are saying Dee. I bought Fine Gardening last week because it is winter and I have to have something in my had to read from time to time. I was so disappointed to see that they had photos of the same garden I saw in one of their earlier publications only with different angled shots. I mean the garden was so unique no one would think that these photos were fresh different garden even if the article was about a different aspect of gardening. This is the main reason I stopped subscribing to many magazines. FG is not the only mag that does this.
Hi Lisa, I haven’t seen the newest issue, but that is sad. There are other magazines who recycle photos, I guess, to save money. You were smart to pick up on the different angle. Good points.~~Dee
Like you we have shelves of books, subscribe to the newspaper, and take a dozen different magazine subscriptions. Although my DH and I both have computers on our laps right now, we love print media and can’t imagine doing without. Still mourning Cottage Living…
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Me too, Pam. It was a great magazine. I’m also sad about House and Garden.~~Dee
I’m worried too. Add Home Companion to the list too. It was one of my favorite mags. In fact, I subscribed to all mentioned. Remember when Victoria mag stopped? It has started up again but is nothing like it’s predecessor.
Donna´s last blog post..Garden Ornament
Yes, Victoria, is a shadow of its former self, although it frequently features photographs of my friend Corey from the blog, Tongue in Cheek.~~Dee
As a 9 year vet of English grad school, and working on several university and independent presses and journals, the sad fact is no one has time to read–or, more pointedly, to read for long, to get into it, and read something more than a paragraph.
And even since I started grad school, it’s been VERY clear I’d have to pimp my own book, and that it would come from a small university or indie press–which is fine, since you tend to get the same quality and more attention, PLUS it’s often more a labor of love for the editors and graphic designers.
Still, I dread the potential work of setting up my own readings, praying three people show, spending money on travel, when that time should be spent writing or at home with family. It doesn’t sit quite right with me that writers more and more seem like sales people going town to town trying to sell their elixirs and tonics. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
And (as I ramble) ebooks or not, MANY just AWFUL print books get published just as easily, if not more so it seems, than “good” ones–even in a tight industry. I’m already jaded at 32, but I think it’s very much hit and miss, right time in the right place, a lottery, who do you know and who do you get when they happen to be in a good mood.
Provoking post. Merci! (I wish I could afford to buy new books all the time, but depend on used booksellers.)
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Benjamin, yes, awful books can be published in many different venues. I find that some of the self-published material is very good and quite beautiful. Now, that many people have decent digital cameras, the sky is the limit. I seem to remember being jaded at 32 also, but at 46, I have a different outlook now. I’m impressed by all the work you’ve put into your schooling, and I appreciate your thoughtful comment.~~Dee
Cindy, MCOK says
I just started subscribing to Country Gardens and Horticulture, so I’m doing my small part to keep print media alive. I’d love to have a local gardening magazine; the only one I know of ceased publication quite a few years ago.
Cindy, MCOK´s last blog post..Different Women in The City Different
Cindy, let me know what you think about both magazines after you’ve perused a few issues. I’d be interested to hear what you think.~~Dee
I like the idea of print/digital becoming a hybrid form where each is supported.
Me, too, Eliz, and I hope that it happens that way.~~Dee
Joe Lamp'l says
Another great post Dee. As a gardener who makes his living writing and speaking about gardening, I am watching closely all of these people and publications that are dropping like flies lately. It’s likely to get worse before it gets better again in our industry but I do believe that it will. Gardening is too important on many levels to not get the coverage, through every form of media. But I do believe there is no substitute for a great book (especially one on gardening) and I’ll always want a few gardening magazines to have on the nightstand and in my briefcase. They are my favorite traveling companions.
Joe Lamp’l´s last blog post..The Truth About Organic Gardening – Say it Ain’t so Jeff!
Joe, I’m afraid you’re right. Whenever technology changes so dramatically, they is a shake down of the old one. I love my books, both fiction and nonfiction, especially gardening, and I’d miss my magazines.~~Dee
Mr. McGregor's Daughter says
I think magazines need to get smaller/ more local. Chicagoland Gardening magazine is doing well because it fills a need that the national magazine can’t or won’t.
Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog post..The Great Earwig Invasion of Aught Eight*
Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening says
How many people resisted automobiles when they first started to become popular? How many would like to go back to that time before automobiles? How many people still have horses? How many still use them as primary transportation? I wonder if these previous major changes can help instruct us about the changes that lie ahead? I’m doing like you are, voting with my pocketbook, but I don’t know how much that will accomplish.
Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening´s last blog post..Write your garden’s mission statement
Brenda Kula says
Oh no! I wonder what will happen to my three year subscription to Country Home? And I just sent a check for a year of Country Home Gardening? I LOVE magazines and books. I for one certainly do my fair share and more of buying them. And always will. I love the fact that after supper and a shower, I can lie on the bed and peruse one of the two. I don’t like TV. I buy both locally and on Amazon.com.
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Carol, May Dreams Gardens says
Good suggestions. We get all worried and nervous when a magazine folds, but what do we do to support them? We need to subscribe to those we love and hope they’ll continue. But tastes, focus and trends all change, and so magazines must change, too.
I’ve done my part on the books, with several shelves of newly purchased books that look much like yours!
Good food for thought, you are a smart cookie, too!
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