Progress, Mike Baron

Progress is a double-edged sword. The internet giveth, and the internet taketh away. I have been a devotee of newsstands ever since visiting a fully-stocked magazine store in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I love magazines. I have subscribed to countless over the years including National Geo, Vanity Fair, Cycle World, Motorcyclist, Road&Track, American Spectator, and Downbeat.

When I moved to Colorado, there were two outstanding magazine outlets. The News Cafe in Loveland, and Al’s News in Fort Collins. They had hundreds, if not thousands of magazines on display and copious paperbacks. I could spend hours in them just looking through the various magazines. The music sections alone were stuffed with periodicals. Rolling Stone. Spin. Downbeat. Under the Radar. Living Blues. There were two or three different model car magazines.

We are undergoing a paradigm shift that is killing the printed periodical. Most of it is the internet. Why shlep downtown when you can dial up whatever your heart fancies on your phone? Well here’s one reason. In a magazine, you can flip past the ads by turning the page. Also, the ads were more thoughtful, designed to engage, and contained exciting graphics. On the internet, the ads are shrieking monsters that appear designed to piss people off. They cover content, often for long minutes with no way to get rid of them. Finally, reluctantly, a tiny, nay, an INFINITESIMAL ‘X’ appears in the far northwest corner of the screen, as far from the ad as possible. When you move your cursor over the X, it runs to another part of the screen. I make a point of not noticing who the advertiser is because I’m not interested. Or if I do take note, it’s to avoid their product or service.

I understand advertisers need to monetize the internet, but there has to be a better way.

Also, I think we have a generation that doesn’t read. Raised on video games and electronic media, they have no interest in books. Certainly not in books without pictures.

Coffee News closed down a couple years ago. Al’s News closed down last year. The only place you can find magazines is Barnes & Noble, which is hanging on by its fingernails, or the supermarket which grudgingly shows a few popular titles.

We also have a risk-adverse population. Motorcycle sales are down. There used to be five or six monthly general interest motorcycle magazines. All that remains are Cycle World and Motorcyclist, both of whom have gone quarterly. They are waving the white flag. There aren’t enough new models to cover, so they feature artsy-fartsy photo spreads of cracked asphalt or dirt bikes in the distance. They feature articles about “Titanium–the Miracle Metal!”

Road&Track is still monthly, but instead of three or four complete road tests each issue, we’re likely to get one, plus endless artsty-fartsy photo spreads of ancient tires, racetracks at dusk, and ruminations on the future of the electric car. Road&Track’s last issue got woke and started railing against the internal combustion engine. They never discuss the source of the electricity powering their Teslas and Leafs, which is, of course, coal-burning powerplants.