If you’ve ever been involved in a print magazine, you’re probably sick of people asking you what is going to happen to print magazines, what with people reading all their content on the internet and new fangled technology like the iPad/Kindle/Whatever.

That, of course, is the 10 million dollar question. On Saturday, I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel for “National Magazine Day,” hosted by San Francisco’s great Booksmith store on Haight. The panel was coordinated by Kevin Smokler of, and also featured Jeremy Adam Smith from, Andrew Leland of The Believer, and Derek Powazek of Fray.

The great and wide-ranging conversation covered everything from the ethics and economy of using unpaid interns to create work, what it means to truly engage a reader, the changing role of editors (I have way more to say on that one later!) and lots of recommendations for publications that are really doing it right like Panorama, The Sun, and The Baffler. Here are two of my favorite parts of the conversation:

  • When talking about the tension between online & print publications, and discussing the idea that print is becoming a “boutique” or “luxury” item, Derek brought up the idea that if you lived in a world where the Internet had come before print (or they had been invented at the same time), you would think about this question really differently. News (like, there’s an earthquake in Chile or what Congress is doing), really makes sense on the web. What makes sense for print are things that are evergreen (i.e. long lasting), should be documented for future posterity, etc. Huh. I guess I never really thought about it that way – what really *deserves* to be in print? If we go that model, we still need to figure out how to fund news organizations who exist primarily on the Internet.
  • Jeremy, editor of, talked about the difference between editing for the web (his current life) and for print (his past life). With print, he said, you agonize over every word. With web, you don’t – and it’s even been known for editors or writers to change posts or articles once they’ve been “published” online. He said he felt like his job was less to focus on every minute detail than it was to create an environment in his site with which to attract a certain kind of person – those who are interested in sharing, generosity, and community building. He described it like a “habitat garden” – where the focus is less on individual plants and more on creating a garden environment that attracts certain kinds of wildlife. Great analogy!

I really enjoyed meeting Christin and Praveen, who have owned Booksmith since 2007. The store is looking great, and I *love* their Bookswap event – the next one is March 6!

This was originally published on Jen Angel's personal blog.

Jen Angel


Jen Angel

Jen Angel has been a writer and media activist for over 15 years. She co-founded and published Clamor Magazine, an award-winning quarterly magazine covering radical culture and politics, from 1999