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Q&A with Samir Husni: 'News doesn’t belong on paper anymore'

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World News Publishing Focus
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Q&A with Samir Husni: 'News doesn’t belong on paper anymore'

Known as Mr. Magazine™, Husni is the founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. He is also active in doing consulting and research for the magazine media and publishing industry.

Husni will be speaking during WAN-IFRA's 10th Middle East Conference, which takes place 15-16 April in Dubai, UAE. Ahead of the conference, we took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about how he sees magazines developing in the near future, and what newspaper publishers could learn from the magazine industry. 

WAN-IFRA: How do you see the relationship between print magazines and their digital counterparts developing in the next couple of years?
Husni: One of the most important revelations that 2015 has brought us is that it’s not print versus digital, but rather print plus digital. And that epiphany was essential to the one group this entire industry is all about: our audience, if we actually focus on our audience that will change our whole approach to what we do within the entire media business.
And it’s a given that no media company today can exist with a single platform. Media companies have to become platform agnostic, however, they also have to keep in mind that while they’re platform agnostic, the audience is far from it, they are platform specific and will continue to be so. So, rather than viewing digital as a nemesis to print; we have been enlightened to the fact that without the two components working together; walking side by side, while serving different factions of our audience; we are being the instigators of the feud. Print and digital have no arguments between them that the publishing world doesn’t create themselves, but thankfully we have awakened to the 21st century where print and digital are no longer on opposite sides of the playing field, but meeting in the middle and complementing each other skillfully.
What are some of the most interesting print innovations you have seen recently from magazine publishers?
Many more than I can count. Technology has helped magazines emphatically. And by the way, I’m one of those people who doesn’t use the word print next to the word magazine, because my belief is if it isn’t ink on paper, then it’s not a magazine. Someone can call it anything they want, but inherent in the definition of the word magazine, is it has to be a printed product.
As for innovations; I’ve seen magazines that are strikingly unique, such as Flaunt magazine with its denim issue, where the cover was actually printed with jeans material; I’ve seen magazines from Hearst where they had a zipper on the cover of Marie Claire for their denim issue; I’ve seen magazines like Oprah, where there were windows that you could open from inside the magazine; I’ve seen 3-D covers and fold-out ones that would display five different covers; so from the design and aesthetic part, there is no shortage in innovation.
From the editorial side, the most intriguing innovation has been, and I don’t use the word interesting; I’m one of those people who thinks when you have to use the word interesting, it means that you don’t know what you’re talking about, but the most intriguing thing taking place in our business today is that magazines have finally discovered that they can’t be the same entities that they were in 2007. Magazines today, in our digital age, must be more curators of information, more of the authority that voices the opinion, the authority that tells people what they need to do, that offers more editorial content, with less generic information, but more detail and about very specific subjects.
Magazine editors today, and we need editors; this whole myth today about the ‘chief content officer,’ I’m not really interested in a chief content officer, I want someone who can curate that content and give me the solutions. That’s where the innovation is taking place, betting on one topic that will grab the audience and relate to them. And in a simple way, any magazine that can help its audience act and react to what’s in it; it will be a successful magazine for the future.
What can newspaper publishers learn from the magazine industry?
The first and most important thing they need to do is stop chasing the news in print. News doesn’t belong on paper anymore. My daily newspaper must remain daily, but the content must become weekly on a daily basis. And that’s what we’re seeing with magazines; all the successful ones are becoming monthlies on a weekly basis, in case their frequency is monthly and the monthlies are becoming coffee table magazines and collector’s items.
If you are in print today, you have to remove that disposability factor and create a collectability factor instead. The problem is not with the ink on paper; the problem is with what’s being put on the ink on paper.
In keeping with the theme of the conference, 'Imagine it’s 2020,' how do you envision the magazine industry five years from now?
Two people can tell you the future: God and fool. And I’m certainly not God, so my answer is going to come from that other person.
In 2020, I believe, we’re going to have more specialized magazines than ever before, more titles than ever before, and that we’ll need more advocacy in magazine journalism than ever before. People are bombarded by information on a second-by-second basis, everybody is trying to send us a message, anyone who can put 140 characters together thinks they are a journalist or a reporter.
In 2020, there will be an even greater need for curators of information, creators of solutions and experience makers. I envision the magazine industry five year from now charging more for its content, but it will be a content that is going to be necessary, sufficient and relevant.


Brian Veseling's picture

Brian Veseling


2015-04-04 17:55

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