How To Build A Resilient Snowman: An Allegory On The Current State Of Magazine Publishing

Today is February 12, and I’m staring out the window of GLM’s Hoboken, NJ offices, watching the snow accumulate and gradually hide the pavement on the corner of 1st and Jefferson. It’s certainly due – We haven’t yet had much snow on the east coast this winter, and I’m grateful for it.

I’m not much of a snow man myself, these days. However, given the right conditions, I am the first on the scene to begin snowman assembly. I’m good at it. Back in good old 96’ I built the most durable and resilient snowman Staten Island, NY had ever seen. It stood tall for weeks. Even after all the surrounding snow had melted, and classes had resumed post-blizzard, my snowman still greeted my friends and I on our walks to and from school.

And while our snowman, ever more slender and weakening, still remained, and there were still remnants of snow on the thawing ground, it would be unimaginable to think someone would begin the process of building a snowman then, when the conditions were rapidly deteriorating.

The blizzard of 96’ provided tremendous opportunity to build (out of snow), whatever the mind could conceive of, much like the print publishing industry of years gone past.

Decades ago, if you had a concept and the resources, there was a market for your title to nuzzle into- the more the merrier. And if you could find a modest readership, the ad dollars would find you. The behemoths abounded – their numbers vast, their audiences responsive. 

Competition, while ever present, was less severe, because, despite readership duplication, the advertisers were plentiful. Media planners answered phone calls in those days and were delighted to meet with reps to discuss ad buys over two-scotch lunches, full of toothy grins and hearty laughs.

The insertion orders rained down from heaven on the magazine publishers of decades past, like snowflakes in early January 1996 – abundant and ceaseless.

But the snow is melting within the print media globe, though many snowmen remain. Magazines once secure, sturdy and thick with ad dollars, have grown thin. Their publishers scrambling to reinforce them, making them more attractive to marketers. Dressing their titles up with added-value, sponsored content opportunities, digital and social components or anything else that might appeal to all too apathetic planners…a crisp new carrot or woolen scarf may do the trick.

Yet, despite the mess of melting, sloppy, wet snow on the ground, something peculiar is happening. People are still out there, building new snowmen. New creative ideas flourish, and publishers are still bringing these concepts to print. The USPS may be insensitive and unmerciful to their plight. The cost of dead trees, and fossil-fuels to transport them continues to rise. Some of the older, larger, more impressive snowmen of days past topple over or become absorbed into the surrounding landscape, yet people continue to build… And they will.

Print has been touted as a dying medium, a remnant of years gone by, but I am not convinced. Maybe it’s me, after all, I tend to obsess over the permanence of things. I opt to repair as opposed to replace when my cherished items become worse for wear. But in my conversations with publishers on the verge of launch, or those who surge ahead, valiantly continuing to travel the road on their hunt for print ad dollars – ever scarcer and more selective – one thing is clear, tangibility.

Print remains. It stands out from the crowd. You can’t assemble a magazine and get it in a reader’s hands from an iPhone in the corner of a busy Starbucks. 

Magazines, in and of themselves, are an art form. Their creation requires patience, planning, organization and time. By default, magazines have a material value, and that value alone sets them above the 1’s and 0’s that proliferate endlessly by the millisecond, in the insubstantial online universe. 

Publishers must recognize and take pride in their magazines. Because it is something real, it exists. It doesn’t need to be plugged in or be blessed by a solid WIFI signal to deliver its message. It can be touched, felt, and smelled, and if so desired, held onto, long into the future.

I still have a copy of the November 99’ issue of Maxim Magazine, in the bedroom I left behind, at my parents’ home. On its cover, Jennifer Love Hewitt, as she was 20 years ago. I boosted it from the counter rack of the West Coast Video I worked for in 1999. I was in-love with JLH at 19 years old, and she was coming home with me that night after work.

You would be hard-pressed to find a web link still active and unchanged from 1999. Most of the bookmarks in the various web browsers I have used over the years are full of inactive, long-expired links. Click one and you’re greeted by Error 404. That webpage can’t and never will be found… forgotten… the world has moved on. But JLH – the way she was in November of 1999…she’s still real. She still exists in the bedroom of my youth. 

BTW… the trick to building a resilient snowman is using the right combination of powder and roadside slush, which allows your friend to freeze solid overnight. Roadside slush contains all sorts of yuck, that somehow fortifies the ice and raises its melting point…maybe…sounds about right. 

GLM Custom, a division of GLM Communications, Inc., offers multi-platform print and digital products and services providing businesses, brands, and publishers with actionable, custom-tailored solutions. 

GLM Communications, Inc. was founded in 1980 as a NYC-based publisher rep firm. Today, our expansive offerings include full-service sales and marketing capabilities, custom publishing, content marketing, social media management, and a suite of design services. 

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