In the last couple of days, executives in both magazine and book publishing have described their business environment in strikingly similar ways: the magazine (or book) is no longer “the center of the universe”. My immediate and continuing reaction: it never was.
This isn’t to tweak either F+W or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the firms whose executives were quoted. They have companies to run and cultures to change, and they’re going to use whatever tools are available to them.
But there is a risk in perpetuating the myth that magazines or textbooks were ever the center of any universe other than our own. Some magazines may have started conversations, but they didn’t end them. A great textbook may have informed a student, but it didn’t inspire them. Effective and engaged teachers did that.
Publishers do great things, but we do it by serving the needs of people who use our content to meet their own ends. Language matters, and saying something that suggests we were once the center only delays the day when we understand that content is and can profitably continue to be conversational ante.