Aesthetica Magazine is an international art and culture publication intent on shining the spotlight on the very best of contemporary art from across the globe. Published bi-monthly and based in York, Editorial Assistant Hannah Clugston discusses the merits of print publishing in a world where social media and digital coverage appear to rule the roost.
Social media has taken over my life, my daily activities are punctuated by checking up on what the rest of the world is thinking/photographing/discussing.
And it isn’t just me either; worldwide Facebook attracts over one billion users and Twitter isn’t far behind. However, it’s not just individuals racking up the user numbers, part of the reason Mark Zuckerberg has such a sparkling bank account is due to the increasing dependency of media related businesses on Facebook and on social media in general.
As part of a media related business our online networks have grown from a side-line experiment to an integral part of a working day. Our social media outlets consist of a blog, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Through those four channels alone we reach over 70,000 followers. Add to that the number of individual page imprints we get on the homepage of our website and we are looking at a total online audience that exceeds 120,000. Weekly, we get hundreds of extra followers on Twitter and Facebook, and our Pinterest account is attracting new “pinners” daily.
It is this sort of data that has led many cynics to prematurely mourn the death of print media as its fast-paced modern predecessor puts publishing out to graze. In some ways this morbid prediction seems to make a small amount of sense. Aside from social media growing at an unprecedented rate, it is also free and domain names are relatively cheap, opposed to the cost attached to the production, printing and distribution of a hard-copy publication. And online forums allow companies to communicate directly with an international audience, garnering direct feedback on posted images and information, feedback that might otherwise end up at the bottom of a postbag or an inbox. So when all is said and done, why not save the trees and slap everything online with a few clicks, and bingo! Hundreds of thousands of readers instantly satisfied.
However, this is a reductive way of looking at it. Social media and digital coverage is not the “predecessor” to print publishing, it is more like a useful companion. Obviously, for instant information like news, an online focus does seem like a sensible move, but for specialist media, like Aesthetica, there has actually been an increase in circulation since the social media boom. It has added to, rather than taken from, our readership and we recently added an additional 129 WHSmith stores to our UK distribution. There is no consideration of “replacement” for us and it’s not just due to the crass observation that even a thousand tweets a day can’t put bread on the table. We still publish the magazine because nothing beats page after page of stunning photography on silk paper and in-depth intellectual features examining the thought and production behind an exhibition, film or theatrical production. At the end of the day, people rely on Aesthetica for their instant online cultural updates because the magazine is reliable, international galleries come to us with their press releases because we have a significant print readership and art fairs invite us to their stands not because we have 20,000 twitter followers but because their attendees want to read our magazine.
For us, there really isn’t a print vs. digital debate, but there is a conversation worth having about the benefits of print and digital united.
Our end goal is always presenting readers with the best coverage of contemporary art and culture, and the place for them to do that is not through reading 140 characters on Twitter or 500 words on the blog but through purchasing the magazine. As a consequence we use our online presence as a tool to enhance our publication, building on and expanding the wealth of knowledge found in Aesthetica’s pages. Ultimately, social media has provided us with an expansive profile that reaches a large international audience, increasing our magazine sales and attracting hundreds of new readers everyday.