During my annual trip this year to Industry Week, I was asked repeatedly how I felt about this magazine going “virtual.” I responded with the same answer every time. It went something like, “I think it’s great. It will place me in a technological environment consistent with most of my subject matter. I’ll have more room to cover and comment on that subject matter, and I get the added bonus that my audience will grow by nearly 120,000 readers. What’s not to love?”
After being greeted repeatedly with responses like, “Oh, really?” or “Well, it’s good you feel that way,” I began to realize just how uncomfortable the majority of people were with the Aftermarket Business “change.” .
I couldn’t resist saying, “It’s not like I’m dying, I’m just moving.” I mean the magazine goes on: Same reports, same features, same writers. Did anyone lament the passing of the Green Sheet when it ceased paper distribution in favor of a weekly e-mail edition? I hardly think so.
A Gen Y’er made the almost maudlin remark, “There is just something about having that paper copy in my hands...” This from a guy who prefers to play golf, football and basketball on a gaming console.
I confess to being confounded by the attachment these folks have to the physical page. Of course I’ve known some people, like Dilbert’s boss, who have to print out everything before reading. But that’s not what these folks are. And the problem becomes more enigmatic when one considers the numerous upsides the virtual format offers for everyone.
For the advertiser, advantages include lower ad rates, broader circulation and the ability to get their message to a very specific audience much faster.
Readers too will have added advantages; like news in their hands weeks sooner than paper and snail mail. Electronic formats will empower them with the ability to go directly to favorite features or writers. And electronic editions will not have to truncate coverage just because ad revenues were down in a particular month.
And writers (not that anyone cares about them) will benefit from an expanded audience, less space constraints and the ability to speak to “breaking news” weeks sooner than in the paper format.
If one insists on looking at the move to virtual as either good news or bad news, the advantages would seem to favor the former. But in reality it is neither…it’s simply a sign of the times. Sure there will be some bumps along the way. But we will get by that. The question is, will the majority of the aftermarket make the adjustment? We’ll see if I see you next month in cyberspace…