As you probably remember from previous posts, I’ve whittled my periodical subscriptions from six down to two: HOW and Step Inside Design. Other than the recession itself, there are numerous reasons for this decision. Ultimately the choice was made based on one simple word: value.
Over the years, I noticed a steep decline in the quality of articles from various periodicals. I also noticed that, repeatedly, tired, trite and overused creative by the same studios tended to be featured in the issues; studios that also bought ads or were associated as sponsors to these magazines. And with editorial content in a steep nadir, the breadth and diversity of winning pieces and creatives waning, the value was visibly decimated. My decision became evident, however, when some of these periodicals (Communication Arts included) sent notifications that they were reducing the annual number of issues by one-third while still retaining the same subscription rate.
Five years ago, era//404 was all over Communication Arts, Creative Hotlist (whose very design itself reeks of deprecation) and DesignInteract.com (their former creative portal that was absorbed by CommArts.com). We won Sites of the Week, were selected for their Designer Profile articles and featured in holiday card contests. But over the last few years, those mentions diminished. Meanwhile, our mentions in other periodicals grew. Last year, HOW (a FW Publication) even featured era//404‘s Brooklyn Wine Company labels in their “Behind the Design” column. And while one may say that I’ve cancelled these subscriptions out of spite, the simple truth is that I require periodicals that not only support my aesthetic and vision as a designer, but also represent the direction and movement of the design industry as a whole—not just it’s advertisers.
It has become clear that the printed magazine industry is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. To exist, they each face the decision of redoubling their editorial quality, enhancing value, embracing new technologies and formats (akin to the online version of The New York Times) and rejecting selling-out to advertisers. Communication Arts, to me, has allowed their status as the definitive design periodical to not only slip from the top five, but plummet to near last. Meanwhile other periodicals like GDUSA (which still hasn’t made my cut) have arisen as a free alternative, besting CA in value and matching in editorial quality. And Step Inside Design (formerly Step By Step) was retooled and re-designed as a periodic creative process compilation in an overwhelming success.
When the smoke cleared two remained: HOW, which I feel represents young, fresh design studios and groundbreaking creative, and Step Inside Design, which focuses on the art of the creative process and artistic refinement. Additionally, with the cancellation of a Creative Hotlist subscription, which was replaced by the free Krop Creative Database (from the makers of Vantageous and QBN.com) I found myself saving $360.00 a year. This allowed me to recalibrate my company’s marketing and educational growth efforts to things that I believe matter more: an AIGA New York membership, Google Adwords/Adsense campaigns and updated software for accounting. We also have more money to send our team to lectures, classes and conferences.
For too long, CommArts and other periodicals and online services rested on the laurels of the periodical they once were and I, for convention’s sake, never questioned the expense of annual subscriptions. This recession, however, has taught us all to be more calculated with regular expenses, trim the fat and live leaner. While I believe online portfolio space should no longer have subscription costs (read: Krop instead of Creative Hotlist), I still whole-heartedly believe that periodicals are worth subscription rates if they can maintain or increase value. And CommArts, I’m sorry, but we have to let you go.