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The Future of Print

August 3rd, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 5 Comments · Media

There aren’t any good reasons to visit Gamedaily for review or previews or editorial commentary. Other reviewers fit my tastes better and I can get a top ten list from pretty much everywhere else.

But they have a very good “biz” section, so I read that. And for me, the highlight is the weekly Media Coverage column by Kyle Orland. And I don’t just say that because he has quoted me a few times. As I said when he left the Video Game Media Watch blog, Orland was that site for me.

His newest column on the place of the print gaming media is worth a look. A couple of months ago, Orland wrote an article on the death of print, widely quoting a number of news stories that pointed out the obvious – print is in trouble. So now he presents the other side from the mouths of people who depend(ed) on paper.

Today’s column has the usual suspects (Future’s Dan Morris, Ziff’s Jon Davison and posterity’s Steve Bauman) explaining what print can deliver that differentiates itself from the online gaming press.

But I’ve been hearing these prescriptions for print for a long time and there still haven’t been any major changes in the gaming mags. CGM loved running columns and features, but also tried to cover everything – from a short-lived console experiment to reviewing wargames that no one plays. GFW is stuck, wedded to a website that will run much of its content and a parent corp that wants to take few risks while it tries to unload its properties. I read PCGamer for the columns. For all the talk about value added features or profiles or the ability to take a “longer look”, many print outlets still rush to get the exclusive first review which often means looking at code six to eight weeks away from release. And the exclusive advantage lasts only as long as it takes someone to read the story and then summarize it in a forum post. If magazines can’t compete on timeliness, why do they keep trying?

On the plus side, GFW and PCG are much different from each other. GFW has won me over with its lengthy interviews, which often range away from the Game That Is Being Made Now and onto larger issues of design, marketing and audience expectation. PCGamer gets to the point faster than just about any magazine that isn’t EGM and they gave Brett Todd’s mod column a home. You can make a strong case that there are more differences in personality and style on the magazine side than on the web side of the business.

I do wish had thought of this line from Bauman for my recent Escapist article.

Because websites cover everything in such detail, nothing really stands out. Nothing lasts. Nothing lingers.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Scott R. Krol

    Lots of really good quotes from folks in that piece. I particularly liked John Davis’ remarks. Too many people view the Internet as some sort of magical content delivery system that heals the sick and raises the dead, but ultimately it’s still just another way to put content out. Print can co-exist peacefully with online content, but as he says, “The key is stuffing the right stuff through the right tube.” Whether magazines will find the right key before they doom themselves remains to be seen.

    I also wonder how the current state of magazine distribution plays into the decline. Just from local observations there have been fewer and fewer places to buy from, and when you can walk into your local Barnes and Noble and drink your latte while flipping through a magazine you don’t have to purchase, where’s the incentive to take it home? And is the scarcity of publications because that’s what the consumer has chosen, or have the retailers chosen that route for themselves and forced the consumer down that path?

  • Dave Long

    I question what happens if you have no print magazines and everything is online. I don’t even visit the likes of Gamespot or IGN anymore because their homepages are just overwhelming. There’s so much there that nothing stands out, as Bauman says. It makes every game seem as important as every other game and makes me care not at all about any of them.

    In print, a clearly defined feature article points up why I should be paying attention to Game X. I like that I can find Gears of War on the cover of GFW and expect to get a bunch of pages on that one game, hopefully with detailed info. Online, that “cover” would appear for like a day and be gone the next. I don’t have time to check every single day for the latest cover article.

    Print also features better writing. Of that there has never been any doubt IMO, and I don’t say that because I was involved in it for so long. Whether it’s because there are fewer people necessary to cover everything in print (and thus making those people the better ones) or just because the people running those mags are a better judge of talent, I don’t really know. But certainly the coverage online is so dime-a-dozen that no one stands out and the readers don’t seem to care either. They can just click another link or hit another favorite site and the last article is forgotten.

    I don’t know where I’m really going with all this other than I do miss CGM every single day. There is no other magazine like it, and I’ve been buying PC Gamer, GFW and others to try to fill the void. It isn’t working…

  • Troy

    Print, I’m sure, has better writing because it has editors who have the time to make sure that everything is done right. As you say, there is so much content online – almost all of which becomes ephemera – it is very difficult for even two or three editors to keep things tight. In print, the lead times and limited content/space means that an editor can easily sort the good from the bad.

  • Justin Fletcher

    Limited content/space not only breeds the creative use of resources, but it provides the focus that so many sites lack. The major players on the Internet try to be everything to everybody, with more features rolling in each day. They’ve turned into gaming search engines. And like Google, the best way to use them is to either look for specific information on a specific topic (e.g. the release date of Bioshock) or to click around in a stream-of-consciousness fashion and see where it takes you. Trying to get a sense of their editorial stances from their home pages is like trying to divine weighty financial analyses from a stock ticker.

    Less can be more, and more can be too much.

  • Krupo

    I like having a gaming mag to read on the subway ride to work.

    It also feels fun to have PCG lying around a staid corporate setting.

    Nothing like warlocks and TPS reports.