The New York Times has an article on Dissent Magazine, which is about to hit its 50th anniversary. It’s a publication which is a little to my right, and to the right of some other CT-ites, but has published some really good pieces over the years. The Times refers to Dissent’s continuing financial difficulties – the journal has always been a labour of love, more aimed at getting ideas into circulation than at breaking even. This leads to an interesting question. There’s always been a lot of guff in the blogosphere about how blogs represent a fundamental threat to traditional media. It’s mostly nonsense – Atrios and Glenn Reynolds aren’t about to eat the NYT’s lunch any time soon, let alone Crooked Timber. Still, the one section of the media that faces a real challenge to adapt is the small opinion journal. There are things that these journals can do that bloggers are bad at – run long and detailed articles for one. But blogs – at least the more successful ones – are arguably starting to catch up (and in certain areas of debate to dominate). And they’re a lot cheaper. Dissent has a circulation of 8-10,000 and loses over $100,000 a year. It costs a few hundred dollars a year to run a blog with the same daily readership.
I don’t think that these magazines are going to disappear – I certainly hope not. According to Chris, Imprints, another small journal, seems to have no trouble in covering its costs. However, if blogs continue to feed directly and indirectly into public debate, it’ll be hard for small journals to resist taking advantage of the possibilities (and cost savings) that they offer. I imagine that we’ll see various forms of symbiosis continuing to emerge, from opinion-blogs like Talking Point Memo, through blog-journal hybrids like the TAP and Reason websites, to niche print journals that get smarter about using bloggers to get the word out about good pieces. All sounds good to me.