A Future for Magazines
The other day while reading Spin, it occurred to me Pitchfork should have a magazine. It is not a matter money but rather a matter of brand and more importantly scaling out the perception of being a taste maker. Personally, I don’t read Pitchfork as bloggers suit me better, but that is the entire point. Different mediums provide different contexts for communication, which in turn speak to different audiences. When you are running a business that is based on advertising, eyeballs are important. Scaling out that business then is finding ways to get a larger audience.
I’ve always felt that social software often times simply makes an effort to fill different types of communication. Sometimes you need to describe things in great detail while other times a few words is enough. There are also photos, videos and sound that have their place among social communication. The social web is simply the translation of communication subtleties to real mechanisms on line.
Now, how this translates to Pitchfork is that unless they are able to transfer their branding to new markets via different kinds of communication mediums, they risk losing their status as the music taste maker. I say this because recently they did a redesign. Personally I liked it, but what became clear was that their web prescience had become more authoritative and respectable. The previous design was a little sloppier and edgy. It portrayed a message of something abrasive and different from the status quo. Now their brand looks like a catalog or newspaper. They provide the facts instead of the future.
Changing the design marks the beginning of the end for Pitchfork unless it continues to expand. Its initial medium of the web may simply have become more receptive to the newspaper like message. But, there are still those people who want the edgy and future based message. Pitchfork should aim to keep these information seekers close if they want to stay as taste makers. Likewise, if Pitchfork does want to expand into the more casual music listener’s world, something like a magazine might very well be a great way to expand that market and brand.
I have no idea whether it is even feasible to start a new music magazine in this day and age, but I think it is worth thinking about in terms of audiences. There are still people who find music through music magazines just like there are people who listen to the radio. There is innovation on the way that will help migrate those people to other mediums, which is why helping to push traffic to something like pitchfork.com via a magazine is a good move. The goal is not to have a successful magazine but to speak to those people stuck in the old medium in a way to help them move to the new.