I’ve been thinking a lot lately about writing a post on the world of newspaper and magazine publishing, and its impact on teens and libraries. Then, last night, I read that the daily newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, will be entirely electronic starting in April. That put me over the edge and forced me to finally write this post.
What started my recent musing on this topic was the news that Cosmo Girl is going to cease publication. The final issue of the magazine is scheduled for December, after that subscribers will receive Seventeen in place of Cosmo Girl. I thought of two things as I read the news about Cosmo Girl. First I remembered that it’s not that long ago that Teen People ceased publication. Then I remembered how much fanfare there was when Teen People, Cosmo Girl, and other magazines of this type started to pop up. It was an exciting new market for the parent publications, People, Cosmo, etc. But, obviously, the demise of these publications demonstrates that the trend has changes and publishers are looking elsewhere for a hot market.
Then, I learned that ALA was taking some interesting steps with their publications. First, American Libraries Direct (AL Direct) was turned into a publication that anyone could subscribe to, not just ALA members. And, I discovered that the current issue of American Libraries, and the archives, no longer require login. This is an exciting move since it gives anyone the opportunity to read about libraries and the work that we do in libraries. When I read about the move by American Libraries, I was reminded of the decision of the New York Times, about a year ago, to make their archives available for free. In an interview a New York Times editor said that the newspaper realized they would get more hits and more advertising revenue if the articles were easily available via search engines – that meant opening the archives for free access.
And then, last night, I read about the Christian Science Monitor changing the way it publishes it’s daily print edition and I thought, we really are seeing a monumental shift in the world of publishing.
What do these three things have to do with each other? First, it’s even clearer now that magazines and newspapers are seriously realizing that the physical and tactile object – the actual print magazine and print newspaper – are not as important as they once were. That’s very clear from the decision of the Christian Science Monitor. And, these kinds of decisions will probably become more common in the coming months and years.
What this means for our work with teens, is that we have to work with teachers, administrators, and colleagues even more to help them understand the importance of access to technology and online resources for the age group. The demise of Cosmo Girl could very much be because of where teens are now getting their information. The web. If the Christian Science Monitor is only going to be available electronically. If the New York Times archives are available for free and searchable in Google. Then librarians, and others that work with teens, can’t ignore the power of the web for information gathering. The requirement, you have to only use print resources for your homework, is even less acceptable today than it was yesterday and will continue to become even more unacceptable as a refrain of educators.
American Libraries and the New York Times probably each realized that by providing resources to readers without requiring extra login steps, or subscription, brings more benefits than the monetary benefits required by fees and subscriptions. Giving away the content breeds good will, interest, and more knowledge about what’s going on in the world (in the case of The New York Times) and in the world of libraries (in the case of American Libraries). Of course, there are financial aspects to these decisions, for example the New York Times did realize that ad revenue would increase if access to the archives was opened. But, a big benefit is to the reader.
In the world of the Christian Science Monitor this also means that the publisher realized that they had to take a move that some might deem drastic. If you think about it, that newspaper must have readers that are not computer savvy or computer interested. But, the Christian Science Monitor must have realized that that population was the dwindling population, and that the tech-oriented reader was more and more becoming a market to pay attention to.
These changes also demonstrate that nothing is static. We can’t expect teens to want to read and access materials the same way that we did when we grew up. Publishers are definitely realizing that many of their markets are not print-based anymore. I know that many libraries are realizing the same thing. We are going to have to take some plunges, and perhaps, some drastic actions to make sure we serve teens in the way that they need to be served. Do we have a move on par with the one that the Christian Science Monitor just took?