It seems that the era of those camera magazines on the rack or in your mailbox may be at an end. Like many computer focused, paper based, publications before them that era is slipping away with the end of Popular Photography magazine and its associated website (www.popphoto.com).
I can’t say I’m surprised to hear this. Actually, I’m only surprised that it held out so long. Any physical mass market publication that reports product news items on anything other that a daily basis really can’t sustain itself. That is the core problem with these camera magazines. They are (were?) primarily focused on equipment and providing a platform for camera equipment makers to promote their products. Photography was always secondary. In an age when one can go online and find dozens if not hundreds of reviews of new equipment within hours or days of a product announcement it’s virtually impossible to sustain this business model based on a weeks or even months long publication lag.
This of course begs the question of why didn’t these publications just migrate online and forge a new publishing model? The answer is that they did, sort of, but with what seems like much reluctance and foot dragging. I could never help but get the feeling that the online version of many magazines were being treated as second class citizens relative to the print addition, existing only to defend the ‘dead trees’ version. In doing so these magazines squandered the many years of brand equity that had built up with readers who found that the web site of their favorite magazine not only wasn’t the only place to get this information it often wasn’t the best or most innovative.
All this is not to say that I think photography magazines are dead. I still think there is a place for magazines that focus on photography as art, magazines that focus on images and image makers with high quality print and writing. Such publications may not be as mass market as the old camera gear publications but the point of cameras is to make images. The world is deluged with information about the newest gadgets. What’s far more fascinating is what creative people can do with those tools, their thought processes and art.