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A few weeks ago, Julie Wolfe, a reporter from 11Alive, came to our office to discuss the future of magazines. Word had just come down that Newsweek would shutter its print edition early next year, and so it seemed like a good time to take the temperature of local titles like ours. Julie didn’t find any Pollyannas around here. You’d have to be crazy, I told her, not to worry about the future of print magazines, and of journalism in general. A generation is coming of age who grew up with the Internet—and with it, the expectation that content should be free. “Free,” of course, has never been a sustainable business model, so the so-called legacy media (newspapers and print magazines) are trying to stuff the genie back into the bottle by walling off online content, charging for digital subscriptions, and creating extras for our websites and tablet editions.
Here at Atlanta magazine, we’re doing all of those things (Check out our blogs! Download our dining app! Buy this issue on iTunes!), but we’re also keeping our attention on the date that brought us to this dance: the publication that shows up in your mailbox once a month. After all, it’s the magazine—a collection of long stories, short interviews, authoritative reviews, vivid photos, lush ads—that is still the most complete representation of what the Atlanta magazine brand is all about. It’s the magazine to which readers turn, month after month, to see their city reflected back at them. And it’s this last point, I think, that gives me the greatest hope for magazines, and especially city magazines like the one you’re reading. We are bombarded with facts every day—every minute, to be more precise—but lost in that avalanche of news alerts and tweets and aggregations and hundred-word briefs is a sense of Truth, with a capital T. Simply knowing more stuff doesn’t mean much without trying to figure out what it all means. Which leaves magazines uniquely positioned in this attention deficit disorder age to explain not just what’s happening, but why.
To predict what the magazine business will look like in twenty years, or even in ten, is a fool’s errand. Things are changing too fast. The physical pages you’re turning here may only be digital pages in a decade. But one thing I’m sure won’t change is the appetite for good stories, told well. All of which is a rather roundabout way to direct you to Tony Rehagen’s gut-wrenching account of how a split-second decision can change everything. Thanks for reading.