Friday, February 05, 2016

The Life and Death and Life of Magazines

Evan Ratliff - atavist

(In anticipation of the 2016 National Magazine Awards ceremony, below is a lightly adapted reproduction of my introduction to The Best American Magazine Writing 2015, published in December 2015)

Before you delve into what will no doubt be the final edition of The Best American Magazine Writing,[1]let us all pause to memorialize the demise of the great magazine story. Indeed, you may be deciding to purchase this volume as a kind of collectors’ edition, one to pull down from the shelf one day and regale your kids with tales of a time when quality magazines thrived. Perhaps you hope to later pawn it off on eBay to some Brooklyn hotel proprietor, seeking a touch of classy nostalgia for the lobby.

It’s been a good run for magazine writing—at least 150 years, by most calculations. But I’ve been reading up on the state of the business and I can report back that the future is dire. The enemy, it turns out, is you and I. Or rather, it is what the demon Internet has done to us, through the Web and the smartphones upon which it is consumed. Always in the pocket, always bleeping its siren call of apps and games, Twitter and Snapchat, and every other flashing distraction—or, as us magazine-lovers might say, affliction. Always conspiring to eliminate our desire for prose longer than a brunch photo caption.

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