|Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson|
There seems to be no surer way for an audio magazine to go under than to print an article or editorial on the way high-end audio is covered on the Internet. First Audio did the double play, then Ultimate Audio, and now most recently Listener. Of course, simply printing an article with a particular subject doesn't ensure shutting down, but in the case of all three publications I mention, the articles they published showed that the people at the top had no understanding of the changing face of publishing in the Internet age. And this, I would argue, had dire consequences for the publications. Perhaps it's easy to say this after the fact, but the sequence of events in all three cases are too similar to be considered mere coincidence.
But I'm not using this space this month to say "I told you so" but rather to explain why the Internet has been so successful in the niche industry that is high-end audio. First, and foremost, there is the ease with which you can find information. Audiophiles are information junkies, especially when they are purchasing items that cost thousands of dollars. Comparison shopping among audiophiles is a sort of religion, and in some ways, the fun is in the shopping, as components from different makers are studied, researched, considered, and auditioned. Given all of this work, which is easier: looking through back issues of a print magazine for one review or typing the name of the equipment you're interested in into Yahoo and getting list of links to articles? The answer is clear.
Then there is also the role of technology. Audiophiles are technophiles, and so many have computers and Internet access. Thus, discussion of audio is a natural for the Internet -- the readership and medium are intricately intertwined. And the sheer number of audio-related websites only makes such discussion easier. At one time, SoundStage! was pretty much alone, but now there is the entire SoundStage! Network, which oversees more than a dozen interrelated sites that cover the audio and home-theater industries. We've grown tremendously during the time when print audio publications have gone under, and we're not even near finished.
One thing easy to overlook about SoundStage! is that we produce some of the best measurements anywhere, and our articles are written to maximize their usefulness to our readers. Hence, while I can't proclaim that the quality of the articles on all audio websites is high (shoddy writing on the Internet is unfortunately common), the amount of effort we at SoundStage! put into our published output is great, and you all seem to like what we do. Our readership numbers have grown continuously, and so has our opinion share among audiophiles.
Since SoundStage! started publishing monthly in 1995, Doug Schneider and I have written numerous editorials on the subject of Internet publishing. So in many ways what I say above is not new. But what's most startling is how few people in the print world understand it. I suspect it's too simple -- better medium with a growing user base versus better marketing of an antiquated publication to a new breed of reader. I know which side of the line I want to be on, and the demise of yet another audio magazine proves the point again. Are we all paying attention now?
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