When I was 18 and a little baby first arriving in New York, I thought that it was in my blood to write for a magazine. No, wait — scratch that. Be editor-in-chief of a magazine. A year into my college career I began applying to the internships that would accompany such a career path. You know, at the hefty Hearst, or the big, bad Condé [Nast], and other places like that. As a teenager with absolutely no experience in writing except for editing the smallest high school newspaper you could ever imagine, a few essay contests, and a handful of liberal arts classes, I didn't get very far. In fact, I got rejected from everywhere I applied pretty much — as they all wanted someone with “experience.” (Yeah, but like isn't the point of interning to get experience? Whatever, I digress.)
Finally, one nice lady on Craigslist was willing to give me a shot. She was the head editor of a small interior design magazine and needed someone to help her with the daily mundane tasks that accompanied the job. (Also, it should be noted that their entire staff consisted of about four people…including me, the unpaid intern.)
While working for said print magazine, there was a time when I had to carry 70 copies of the magazine to the post office… in the rain. Do you know how heavy 70 magazines are? Heavy. Do you know how heavy 70 wet magazines are? Very, very heavy. Because, ya know, back then you couldn't email your article to people you wrote about, YOU HAD TO PHYSICALLY SEND IT. (Oh shoot, I digress again.)
When I was about fed up with making mindless color adjustments of pictures of furniture on PhotoShop, my boss asked me to help out with the magazine's blog.
At first I was only allowed to proofread pieces, but eventually she let me start writing about subwoofers that looked like dogs without heads and stuff like that. And wow, did I like doing that so much more! Boy, it sure was fun.
After that I decided to see what else I could do on the interwebs. Besides, all I heard from my professors at my journalism “institute” was that print was dead and digital was totally the “in” thing to do. Most of them had been laid off from their prestigious print media jobs and were freelancing or writing books or only teaching, leaving them a little bitter to the wide-eyed blogger sitting before them. Actually, they were so bitter and negative about the industry that it left a bad taste in my mouth. I switched to broadcast journalism and film for fear that I would be throwing away my $200k education listening to old folks teach me antiquated ideas.
I took to Craigslist once again and got my first strictly-writing internship for a New York social and cultural blog. My bosses liked me right off the bat and let me have free reign to write about anything I wanted. It was there when one boss forced me to start a Tumblr account and immediately I was hooked. Instead of flipping through a pile of music, fashion, design, art, and political magazines one by one, I was scrolling through an endless feed of fun, all in one place.
That's when it hit me — the difference between working for a print magazine and the internet was the element of fun.
It's fun to write on the internet. Readers want to comment on your article. They want to engage with you. They want to argue with you and send you long ranting emails and call you out on your bullshit. They want to tweet it, Facebook it, Google+ it, and even email it to their mothers. And it's because the writer and the reader are all in the same place — the internet. And that's really neat.
After that, I ended up interning for a major magazine's digital department for a while. I imagine it's more laid back than working in the actual print editorial wing. (Actually I know so because I would hear what interns going on photo shoots had to do and it didn't sound fun.) I started their Facebook page and helped them tweet funny stuff. And once again, the digital people were awesome. They liked cat gifs, weird YouTube videos, and just like, general cool stuff. AND IT WAS FUN.
Recently I read an article that ranked the best magazines of the year. Marie Claire was number one, Harper's Bazaar was number two. And the reason they were chosen?
A lot of it had to do with their digital initiatives.
So, when young people still tell me they dream to write for print still, that's when I get confused. Why? You aren't going to make more money. (Hello, assistant editor only making $28k a year at Condé Nast.) Let's be honest with ourselves, within the next couple of years, it's likely print will start thinking digital first.
And sure, maybe there's some “prestige” with writing for a magazine because a couple of editors have to approve your worthiness before something is published. I get it. A lot of people write on the internet because almost anyone has access to it. But, if anything, the internet has created a generation of great writers and lousy writers — but most importantly, it's created a heck of a lot of persistent writers. Ones that are willing to keep working at building a following. And I think that means something.
Just remember, that article in that magazine can be lost in a fire — the one on the internet is there to stay, forever.