“That Question”

ASME's "Ellie"

John Fahey, CEO of NGS, blogs again (below) this time about NGM’s ASME nominations, and about the future of the Magazine.

(We can hear publisher John Q. Griffin repeating his skeptical mantra about the ASME awards: Winning an “Ellie” [or being nominated for one] is nice, but what a small group of editors in New York think about the Magazine has little bearing on our financial health and viability. Fact is, readers don’t care much about such awards.)

“That Question”

Published: March 15, 2010

Last week I was happily reflecting on the seven ASME nominations NGM received for excellence in a variety of editorial categories. This recognition is so richly deserved and the near deluge of nominations didn’t surprise me at all. Over the last several years, NGM has broken away from the pack by covering the most important issues facing us today, with brilliant, clean visual design and incisive story telling. These qualities have been the hallmarks of NGM for generations — just brought to a new, higher level of excellence by Chris Johns and his team.

The ASME announcement also made me think of “that question” — the one that NGS staffers ask me most frequently. “How long do you think NGM will exist?” Generally, what is meant is: how long do I believe NGM will thrive as a print publication? For reasons not thoroughly understood by me, but probably self-inflicted, I’m sometimes viewed as a skeptic or pessimist regarding NGM’s future. When asked “that question,” I feel I ought to convey some ambivalence — it’s not so important what form NGM takes as long as it’s brilliantly delivered and creates a wonderful reader/user experience.

That being said, I love NGM in print. Despite advertising challenges, enormous competition for individuals’ time, generational change and a wide array of factors, I believe NGM will be a vibrant, successful print publication for at least 10-20 years. We occupy a unique, cherished position in the minds and hearts of readers worldwide.   I believe that depth and breadth of appreciation insulates us from market forces a little more than other titles are.

Okay, so we’ll continue to flourish in print for some period of time but let’s talk about how exciting the digital future is for NGM.  I think of it as NGM unshackled or NGM on steroids.

Digital technology will allow us to publish more beautiful photographs with each story, stills that morph to video, maps that allow for full immersion, sound to enhance the experience. This list of possibilities is virtually endless. Imagination and creativity are our only limits.

Change offered by these digital capabilities is our very good friend. I also believe that the skills so in evidence among our magazine editorial staff will be invaluable and transferable to this new stage.

National Geographic is a natural winner in this new world. Who doesn’t like an organization that “inspires people to care about the planet” through superb storytelling? Our mission is tailor-made for the younger audience that we know is more environmentally aware and concerned than any in history.  These new digital platforms are where that audience is going to go to engage in issues.  So let’s meet them at their place.

I find myself going back to the organization culture issues we’ve talked much about.  We can succeed if we adhere to the “Internal Values” we’ve recently developed — collaboration, trust and respect, curiosity…   At the risk of sounding like some sort of old philosopher, I sincerely believe that the challenge before us is truly an incredible opportunity.

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.