90% are doomed, or should be doomed. There is the contemporary art contingent which I exclude from doom, such as the BJP, Hotshoe, and a few non-UK magazines such as Popular Photography and American Photo and PIX. Then there is Amateur Photographer which is a weekly interface between this new-fangled digital nonsense and the nineteenth century, complete with a letters page stating both how wonderful is film and a charitable column for the elderly learning impaired, all very worthy and safe because the elderly will subscribe until they are personally doomed.
The two magazines for the professional would be sunk without their wannabe amateur readers who contribute fully by writing letters and articles concerning their noble “weekend warrior” status. I subscribed to Professional Photographer during the brief period when Grant Scott was editor and brought in readable articles and introduced podcasts, and who focused on the realities of the professional photographer and whose rising incidence of clinical depression and alcoholism (eg Peter Dench) reflected the reality of the contemporary photographer, but then he was abruptly sacked and they went back to how to shoot bloody weddings as if that was cutting edge. I was more annoyed by the reversion than by being unable to cancel my subscription and receiving another six issues of their meaningless crap.
A sidebar genre briefly evolved, the “how to be a professional photographer”, and along with the thick £14 “how to-” guides the bookshelves of WHSmiths have never been so overloaded.
And finally there’s the doomed, the 20-plus monthly glossy magazines that are notable by their reliance on the seasons for their content, and their monthly interchangeability. Pick up any of a dozen monthlies and you’ll have this month’s theme, how to shoot spectacular autumn/winter/spring/summers. Which to buy? Perhaps if you own Canon or Nikon gear you’ll buy their offering, or maybe you’re treating photography as a competitive sport and following any of a dozen POTY competitions.
Last week I counted 34 different monthlies on the shelf, with largely identical content, and frankly most of them are useless once you achieve a minimum level of skill.
Photography isn’t alone in this navel gazing, many other hobbies are going the same way, but although magazine subscriptions may actually strengthen in a recession due to their low price for a “luxury” purchase, there is pressure on them all due to the drop in advertising revenues.
Many magazines are moving to downloadable editions, and the BJP in particular is a different experience for which I’m personally giving up the physical subscription in favour of the iPad version, but a few of the others are only a scan of the magazine poorly re-formated in low-res for a tablet.
So take your pick, I doubt half of all the photography magazines will still be around in two years, and in my view we haven’t lost anything. What we are gaining is a greatly improved image on a hi-res digital screen, although I admit that I still prefer to hold a magazine, but if I look at Burtinsky’s images on the iPad edition of the BJP there is really no reason to bother with a poor quality paper image.