Dian Schaffhauser’s post If I Were Editor… in Sourcingmag.com’s Blogosphere takes online magazines (such as eWeek, InformationWeek, InfoWorld, and CIO) to task for an interesting reason:
These business-of-tech books all have something in common: Not a one has a single columnist or regular contributor who doesn’t live in the United States! A couple — eWeek and InfoWorld — are dominated by middle-aged American white men. (And there’s nary a woman writing in their pages. InformationWeek used to have Stephanie Stahl in its pages almost every week, but she’s been shuttled to an executive editor post that never seems to show up in the printed version of the magazine anymore. But I digress.)
While my mother taught me not to criticize people for their age, sex, and nationality, Ms. Schaffhauser may have a point. When you are online there’s no reason to limit yourself to “magazines” like these for news, and there’s certainly no reason to limit yourself to authors writing from the U.S.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written for magazines myself (e.g., here and here). And I plead guilty to her other two charges as well. As a blogger, though, I look at magazines such as the ones she mentions as surviving relics of a bygone era. They are the technology equivalents of the paper magazines I see in the checkout line at the supermarket.
I regularly read and communicate with authors outside the U.S. such as Luis Suarez, Des Walsh, and Mike Stopforth; the idea of anyone related to a “technical” line of work limiting himself or herself to U.S. sources and contacts seems, at best, to be quaint.
Another reason for my attitude is the universal availability of search engines, Google in particular. While for cultural reasons I am cursed to limiting myself to communicating in English — my German and Latin are hopelessly rusty — the ability of such search tools (and by extension, RSS feed subscriptions) allows me to create my own online “magazines” from sources I know are relevant to my interests, regardless of the country of source. This further degrades my interest in the concept of the “magazine.”
I have somewhat similar feelings about “blog networks” that are formed among writers in a related subject area. While they may initially help me figure out “who else is writing on this topic,” my real interest will usually end up being the writings of one individual in particular. “Network affiliation” rapidly becomes irrelevant especially after I add the feed to my list.
Magazines and web portals, if you think about it, are closely related. They both seek to impose order on a variety of sources, often for reasons that make a great deal of sense for the selling of advertising or subscriptions. With the rise of search, search based ads, blogging, tagging, and feed subscriptions, though, the rationale for both magazines and portals becomes suspect; at minimum, their operation and justification may need to be re-thought.