Paper-lovers seal victory with naked female breasts

IMG_0119Good, old-fashioned, tree-based magazine-lovers claimed a famous victory over their digital cohorts/opponents at last night’s inaugural Magazine Publisher’s Association Christmas stoush. But the mag-debaters had to call on some visual aids to get them across the line.

With the moot ‘Magazines are DEAD’, the MPA team of Vincent Heeringa from HB Media, Sahil Merchant from Magnation and Mike Hutcheson from Image Centre Group faced off against the Interactive Advertising Bureau team of Siobhan McKenna from Mediaworks Interactive, Tom Osborne of Wag the Dog and Michael Gregg from TradeMe.

Not surprisingly, given the magazine-centric make-up of the 160-strong crowd and ACP’s Paul Dykzeul in control of the microphones, the negative team easily took the crown with unparalleled oratory, mind-blowing statistics, occasional heckling and a dash of gratuitous nudity.

McKenna started strong for the digitals, with an entertaining and light-hearted broadside directed at the antiquated paper model. But she was realistic about her team’s chances of victory: “Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.”

She said magazines – “paper publications published periodically” – were an endangered species; an outdated medium that was staring down the barrel of defeat at the hands of its more nimble, immediate digital competitors. The content isn’t dead, however (a common utterance from the digital team). It’s just that the dish you serve your content on is now the web.

She likened magazines to time capsules (“they’re irrelevant from birth”). And while it was fun milking print while it lasted, she says the writing is on the proverbial wall for the media cavemen.

Vincent Heeringa, occasionally known as the Graydon Carter of New Zealand, rebuffed and rebutted with gusto, pointing out that McKenna’s speech was written on paper and arguing that whatever comes after does not kill what came before.

All of the successful online media ventures in New Zealand, he says, have evolved from the print industry. And, despite claims that print is environmentally unfriendly, the IT industry is responsible for more emissions than aviation and our toxic technological leftovers are likely to be sent to somewhere like Sierra Leone.

He says the great online melange is a hodge-podge of amateurism *ouch*. So the skills of editorial professionals will always be required. And there’s no replicating the real thing on a machine: he’ll be off to the beach this summer with his stack of magazines, laughing maniacally as he rolls luxuriantly on his wads of paper cash.

Osbourne won’t, however. He’ll be taking his iphone to the beach, because he thinks the internet is the delivery mechanism of choice in an on-demand world. Osbourne failed to impress with his speech, although he did point out that it was unlikely the print curmudgeons did any research for the debate in a library filled with dusty tomes and past magazine issues. Touché.

Sahil Merchant, the founder of Magnation, dropped the bombshell that the hypocritical Osbourne actually has a subscription to a magazine and talked about the paradigm shift for the publishing industry. Welcome to the Long Tail, where, for many magazines, it’s not about an advertising model any more. It’s about building communities, often online, and then creating magazines for these highly targeted audiences. The biggest seller at his stores in 09 has been Wooden Toy magazine, second was t-shirt bible T-World, followed by Apartamento and Sneaker Freaker. And there are more magazines being produced every day.

T-World’s publisher, for example, doesn’t rely on advertising. But because of his niche focus, advertising looks for him. And he can also charge huge consultancy fees to big apparel companies.

The interactive team’s last speaker Michael Gregg strode forth to his pulpit (quite literally, as he donned some fetching religious garb) and, with a booming ecclesiastical voice, delivered an entertaining fire and brimstone sermon to the “Coronation St set”.

“We are the children of a new generation. Do not be afraid,” he opined, often very loudly. The content lives on, but the medium moves on. Magazines are dead. Welcome to the wake. But let’s not forget the past, he says graciously.

Apparently, it’s not about the sausage, it’s about the sizzle and much of the evening’s sizzle was created by Hutcheson, a “recovering anorexic” who, in typical ad man style, knew exactly what the crowd wanted to hear (150,000 blogs are started every day, everyone’s got a story in them and most of them should stay there). He also knew what they wanted to see: he enlisted the services of a fe-model to assist him with his visual aids, one of which was a cartoon showing two dogs chatting that said: “I started a blog, but I just decided to go back to pointless, incessant barking.”

The most interesting visual aids, however, ended up being attached to the model: as a final hoorah to finish his entertaining tirade (“all teeth and hair-product,” he said of his interactive opponents), he had arranged for a magazine cover to be painted on the model’s chest, with the handiwork helping to seal the negative team’s victory.

Even the digerati, who presumably would’ve preferred a virtual debate with absolutely no human contact involved, had to concede that Hutcheson’s ‘Topless Gear’ cover was a masterstroke.

So, overall, the consensus was that we are in an age of also, not of either, boobs will always increase male votes and there is no food on a stick that isn’t delicious.

Full coverage of the event will be available on StopPress on Friday. And you check out some photos here.

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