How Coffee Will Save the Magazine Industy

I’ve long been a reader of magazines, and so for several months now I’ve been intrigued to see lots of pro-magazine advertisements appearing in some of my favorite periodicals.  Maybe you’ve seen them, too.  Generally, the ads are filled with all sorts of upbeat facts about magazine circulation and subscribership.  The campaign’s purpose is to correct the belief — mistaken, apparently — that digital media and magazines are at odds with one another, and that the former are slowly choking the life out of the

Well, this week I happened upon the cleverest ad of them all.  “Will the internet kill magazines?” we’re asked.  The response — given in the form of a question — is deliciously pithy.  “Did instant coffee kill coffee?”  What’s brilliant is how the answer operates so efficiently in two distinct registers.  On the one hand, it conveys the message of complementarity that’s central to the campaign: just as there are markets for both instant and premium coffee, so, too, are there markets for internet and print-based publications.  Everybody’s satisfied! On the other hand, the terms of the analogy offer a none-too-subtle dig at digital media, likening it to the unsatisfying simulacrum of the real thing: just as instant coffee is a quick-fix approximation of the good stuff, so, too, are internet publications little more than over processed conveniences for impatient people with undiscerning taste. Ouch.  What one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away.

I could go on and on about “subject positioning” and “enthymemes” in an effort to explain what makes this ad tick, but for once I’m going to pull back.  Instead, I’m going to do something a person like me — someone schooled in cultural critique — so rarely does: give credit where credit is due.  Kudos to the folks at Young and Rubicam-NY for crafting such a pointed ad.

Will printed magazines survive?  I don’t know, but I’d like to think so.  The proof, I suppose, will be in the pudding…er, make that coffee.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Columbia Univ Press, Ted Striphas, Generalist for hire., joseph martins, Michael Witkowski and others. Michael Witkowski said: RT @ColumbiaUP: How Coffee Will Save the Magazine Industry? […]

  2. […] (10/26/10): As I was catching up my blog feeds, I came across this remarkably clever post by Ted Striphas, author of The Late Age of Print, who himself is open sourcing his wonderful book […]

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