A Ghost from Media’s Past

April 2, 2014

As a child Time Magazine came into our house by subscription every week.  In the absence of a TV at home the defining images I have of all the major global events of the time – Reagan’s election, the Challenger Shuttle disaster, Tiananmen Square – all came from its pages.  Over the years Time Magazine became an integral part of our household routine.

Every few months my Mother would roll 10 or so copies of the magazine together, wrap some brown paper around them, and post them to my Uncle Tim in West Cork.  Yes, by the time he received the magazine Uncle Tim would have known well that the Berlin Wall had fallen or that Thatcher was re-elected but that was not the point. 

None of us read those copies of Time Magazine to get news.  

We read them for insight, knowledge and pleasure.             

Of course now the weekly news-magazine is an anachronism; a quaint throw back to a time before 24 hour rolling news channels, smartphones and Twitter. Indeed Time’s great rival in the weekly newsmagazine scene, Newsweek, ceased publishing a print edition in December 2012 after 79 continuous years. 

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In the last decade as our media consumption habits have changed I have thought little about Time Magazine – 140 characters on Twitter was enough for me to know what was happening in the world.  Then 5 weeks ago something strange happened.  Like a ghost from the past Time Magazine started arriving weekly through my letterbox.  It took a while to figure out why this phenomenon was occurring.  The simple answer was on renewing his own subscription (for the 37th year) my father was offered a free gift subscription, which he signed me up for.

For the first few weeks I simply discarded the issues as they arrived, it was simply more junk mail.  I didn’t need a paper DeLorean to transport my media consumption habits back 25 years.

Then, last week, with my eyes in pain from a day of staring at screens of all sizes I idly leafed through a copy of Time.  It was brilliant, a reunion with an old friend.  Unlike much of the bite sized news chunks that digital media serves us up this was not just news as information.  It was in-depth analysis, properly written, rigorously edited and researched.  I consumed it slowly.  Above all it gave me an insight into events that can be rare with digital channels where depth is often sacrificed for speed. 

I read a brilliantly illustrated piece about the iron workers who are building One World Trade Centre in Manhattan.  Best of all the last line of the article directed me towards a 12 minute film online which brought the whole story to life.  This film, which can be viewed at www.time.com/rise, was a great example of old media cleverly using digital channels to deepen their reader’s relationship with the brand.

On March 7th this year Time’s old print foe Newsweek emerged from its digital only sabbatical and started publishing print editions again.  

– Garret

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