On Becoming Irrelevant: A Look at Jann Wenner’s Position on Tablet-Formatted Magazines

Written on June 3, 2011

I’ve come to believe that it is the nature of human beings to age themselves into irrelevance. Face it, at some point in your life, you will look at “what all the kids are doing” and you will think it’s ridiculous. You will believe that it doesn’t pertain to you. Worst of all, there will come a time when it will simply be too difficult for you to make the transition. You will have become your grandparents. You will have crossed over into the land of the curmudgeon, the old coot, the biddy.

But, having come to that realization…

I was still surprised to see Jann Wenner, one of the true icons of m-m-m-m-m-my generation, standing awfully close to the edge between now and irrelevant.

In Rolling Stone Publisher Jann Wenner Not a Fan of iPad Magazines (Gizmodo), Jann Wenner is quoted as saying that the shift from paper magazines to tablet-formatted magazines is maybe two generations away. Really? Let’s think about that. Tablet sales in 2011, fueled by the popularity of the iPad, are projected to surpass 2010 sales by 181%. That’s 54.8 million units. MILLION. Sales are projected to surpass 200 million by 2014. (Gartner) I didn’t take the time to graph the growth curve for the purpose of this entry, but let’s just say hockey stick comes to mind. If you think of smart phone growth, we’re not talking generations, we’re talking months. Eighteen months ago, I had a Motorola razor. Now my son has the 8-gig i-Phone and thinks I’m a cheap so-and-so for not springing for 16. And because of smart phones, we’ve been predisposed to consider the tablet.

Jann, you’re getting old, son. [better to burn out than it is to rust]

He also notes that revenue from ad spaces in tablet magazines will be less than in print magazines. If that turns out to be the case, it will be the result of an imagination fail on the part of the publishers. I can think of scads of ways tablet-formatted ad spaces will have more value than their 2D counterparts. [see Journalism & Advertising in Tab World: It’s not windows anymore, people. It’s doors. 5.26.11]

Tablet-formatted magazines are coming. And they’re not one or two generations down the road. I’d give them five years. Max. In the meantime, I’m considering sending Jann an application for AARP… unless he’s already a member.

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