Over the christmas holidays I watched the movie Mandela : Long Walk to Freedom #MandelaLWTF and it inspired a nostalgic journey of discovery into the era of the 1950’s in South Africa. The opening scene in the movie is of Mandela rushing out to court from his residence in Sophiatown. Popularly known as Kofifi or Sof’town, this area was the melting pot of vibrant urban African culture. Apartheid was thick in the air at that time but it took the curiosity and bravery of a former cricketer and the son of a financier , Bob Crisp and Jim Bailey to start a black lifestyle publication : African Drum.
The magazine rose to acclaimed status for its pioneering role in investigative journalism; championed by Henry ” Mr Drum ” Nxumalo and photography ; captained by Alf Khumalo and Peter Magubane. The magazine had a formidable black cast of journalists , collectively they were known as ” Drum Boys “.
Fast forward to modern day where digital platforms have put the existence of printed publications under threat. Newspaper stands are almost extinct because of platforms such as eReader , Kindle and mobile apps.
The question is will magazines such as Drum continue being held in high regard in a competitive environment ? Or will they rely on their legacy as they make room for the latest trailblazers i.e.Destiny Magazine ?
Perhaps mine will be an opinionated answer when I propose that Drum will eventually deteriorate, if it hasn’t yet. As a reader I have noticed that in keeping up with the speedy output of news bites, Drum has assumed a tabloid format. The articles that are extended onto Twitter for example are those of a scandalous nature. On the other hand a publication such as Destiny Magazine, with no legacy to rely on, has perfected the method of giving life to their printed articles by having digital Hangout sessions in addition to their Social Media channels. Thus the acquisition of a hard copy is but a foundational introduction into a particular subject matter. The readers can provide feedback in the online sessions and this translates into more content engagement.
Eric Schmidt – Google chairman – had this to say at a Magazine Publishers Conference : Five years from now, the world will have “powerful, tablet-looking things — [devices] that look roughly like a tablet — as a substitute for traditional media,” . Those tablets will have apps that are “incredibly immersive,” including magazine apps, which will take advantage of people’s social graphs, location data and other features to offer a more interactive experience, he said.
Naturally Schmidt’s prediction holds more weight than mine, therefore I will ride on his statement in stating that any publication that ignores the quick access to data and the consumption platforms will find itself nullified. Legacy or not , only those publications that will adapt with the times will survive. Drum could have boasted a stellar cast of journos but now every individual can publish material on the ” www ” . Non-organizational opinion pieces i.e. personal blogs ; open letters; are deemed to be more credible as they ” speak from the heart ” in contrast to editorial pieces. For publications to captivate the attention of readers the experience is going to have to be more interactive or else be the rhetoric will only be exclusive collectors items for connoisseurs.
The digital reality has invaded all comfort zones of publications newspapers included. Writers are also facing a great challenge , there seems to be a lack of appreciation of the craft of written word. Punctuation has become non-essential as a new diction takes center stage. #Hashtags ; used to show a topic/subject ; Abbreviation terms such as ” tmi – too much information ” and ” lol – laugh out loud” ; Action indicative terms such as ” drops mic and walks away ” are part of general digital speech.
I remember as a young boy I would see my father returning from work with his newspaper tucked in his armpit. Such a man was regarded as well informed but that sight has been replaced by that of individuals forever gazed at their mobile devices. So it would be a smarter idea to immerse ourselves in the knowledge of how digital media ( technology ) will affect our lives instead of being fixated on the glossies. The story of Drum magazine was even adapted into a movie, unless there is drastic revolution in how the publication is adapting, then that legacy will be best represented in the movie.