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Opening Arguments

The lead-time dilemma

Did you get your Parade magazine in the Sunday paper yesterday? If not, you missed out on some big news:

aaaaaparade.jpgAn interview with Benazir Bhutto before the former Pakistani prime minister was assassinated was important enough to keep on the cover of Parade magazine, the magazine's publisher said Sunday — even though the publication had already gone to print when Bhutto was killed.

Randy Siegel said Parade went to press on Dec. 21 and was already on its way to the 400 newspapers that distribute it when Bhutto was killed in a Dec. 27 shooting and bombing attack at a campaign rally in her country.

The Web version of the story was updated, Siegel said, but it was too late to change the magazine. He said the only option other than running the outdated article would have been asking newspapers not to distribute the magazine at all.

"We decided that this was an important interview to share with the American people," he said.

Nice attempt at a save, but not terribly convincing. This isn't evidence for the abandonment of print, but it does illustrate that not enough people have rethought how to use print. The longer the lead time, the less tied to current events a print article should be. We need to be thinking in digital terms for immediacy and print product for backgrounders and analysis.


Bob G.
Mon, 01/07/2008 - 4:06pm

Burning a new plate and recalling the issues wouldn't have been all that hard to do.
Aside from that, it was still a pretty good read.

Damn shame it might never come to pass.


Kristin Bird
Tue, 01/08/2008 - 6:00pm

I truly disagree. Why does WIRED's highly tech-savvy subscriber base, for example, have 750,000 print circulation? Because print is convenient in a different way. Print is available for impulse purchase at the grocery store, for reading in the bath. If anything, the delay time reflects the tragedy of Bhutto's assination. Intelligent people understand that magazines have a long lead time, and that political magazines may reflect that to a small degree. People aren't idiots. And as far as I know, print media may be shrinking, but it sure as hell isn't dead.

Leo Morris
Tue, 01/08/2008 - 7:18pm

I didn't mean to suggest that print is dying, merely that people in that business haven't been rethinking it enough. One thing a print product does offer -- and WIRED is a good example -- is a staff dedicated to searching out, reporting on and organizing stories around a theme or concept treasured by readers. There is a guiding intelligence that gives the publication a personality.

A particular problem for newspapers is that we are stilll trying to be the general-interest publication -- a little something for everybody -- in an era in which people like those WIRED readers are more interested in having their specific interests addressed.