I went to Foo Camp this weekend. (Click here if you’re unfamiliar with the Foo concept.) It was a weekend chock-full of smart folks with equally smart ideas, and full respect to the organisers.
I’m left with a persistent thought, as throughout the weekend I had the same conversation ad absurdum. It goes a little sumthin’ like this:
“So what do you do?”
“I’m the editor of Idealog magazine.”
“What, you mean, like print? Like, a print magazine?”
“Yep, that’s the one. Paper and ink.”
“So what’s your Plan B?”
“For your career. Your job has no future, clearly. Print is dead. So what are you going to do?”
Well, up until this weekend, it had never occurred to me that I so desperately needed a Plan B. Perhaps I have my head firmly buried in the sand over this, perhaps to my detriment*.
With one chap, I pointed out we’d just had an increase in circulation; that while Unlimited had sold its small circulation and shutting down its print publication as a bold move into digital and "leading the way in industry innovation", Idealog is still going off like a frog in a sock. (And no, we don’t eschew digital; the fact that you’re here right now reading this is evidence of that. But we believe there’s room – and roles – for both.)
I pointed out that it’s entirely possible that the sort of person who gets invited to Foo Camp is probably part of a particular stream of society that is heavily digital; fast followers, trendsetters, quick adapters. That while we are all over the iPad like fat kids on cake, Raewyn from Eketahuna wouldn’t know how to drive one and still awaits her New Idea (print! OHMIGOD PRINT) on a Monday morning with bated breath. Raewyn isn't rushing out to get a tablet any time soon.
This chap wasn’t having a bar of it and maintained the line that I would soon be out of a job and begging on a street corner, flogging off back issues of the magazine to feed myself and my cats.
Fact is, I love print. I FREAKING LOVE IT. I get all tingly in the magazine section at Whitcoulls; when new issues arrive in the mail, it makes me a little bit hot and sweaty. I don't get up in the morning and sigh deeply and think to myself, “Well crap, print is dead. Better make the best out of a bad situation”.
I don't have a Plan B, because to me, having a Plan B is a sign that you don't really believe Plan A will work. You have to have self-belief in order to achieve. And hell, do I ever have belief in the power of magazines.
Here’s the rub: what you think about, you bring about. So if your mindset involves the mantra “print is dead and how I do I combat that”, you're constantly reinforcing that discourse in everything you construct for your publication. But if you get up in the morning with enthusiasm for your print product and you go about your day as if print were very much alive, you're more likely to see positive outcomes. It’s like approaching a dog – they can smell your fear.
Moreover, it’s a concern that the idea “print is dead” is going to become naturalised; that we won't be able to see past it or think constructively around it, because it will be so entrenched in our thinking, so taken for granted. It will be like camouflage furniture in a room full of camouflage wallpaper and cats wearing little camouflage cat outfits; you won't be able to remember a time when 'print is dead' wasn't the case. Print was always-already dead.
So when you next hold a copy of Idealog (print! PRINT) in your hands (next issue on sale February 18), be aware: it isn't something we hastily throw together for the sake of it, groaning and moaning that we’re making the best of a bad situation, but rather, the fruit of our loving labours, our blood, sweat, tears and cat fur.
Because when we make Idealog, we make a Plan A for you.
*Yes, yes, I know all the stats and how bleak the outlook is.