Ten media I pay for

Information wants to be free has been the rallying cry of the greatest thinkers from the online world. It actually comes from a keynote speech that Stewart Brand gave in 1994. The free has been interpreted as ‘free as in beer’ but it can also be ‘free as in speech’. With that in mind I decided to have a look at the media I pay for. I was looking for ten media titles and ended up with 11, but that includes publications that I only buy very occasionally. There were three broad reasons that I bought media.

  • Information that I can’t get anywhere else (easily). With the exception of the Telegraph’s MPs expenses scandal or the Washington Post’s Top Secret America projects most newspapers sell a commoditised product. Their sources are similar: global television news networks or wire services such as the Press Association, Agence Presse France and Reuters have filled in the gaps as newspapers cut back on having their own on-the-ground people
  • Aesthetic pleasure – some publications are beautifully laid out and printed on nice paper or on a well designed website. There is a real tactile pleasure to reading a nice book or magazine
  • Part of a ritual – having the media has become part of my behaviour, this is trickier to create because it is personal in a lot of contexts

I have split the media into two sections, first media that I consume on a regular basis as I subscribe to them, then the titles that I consume on a irregular basis, much of this is down to context – where I am usually, or where I am traveling to:

  • Wired (US edition) magazine – Wired used to be at the forefront of typographic design when it launched with neon and metallic inks and text that spiraled on the page. Now it is a bit more prosaic-looking generally. What it still is, however, is a good zeitgeist measure of technology and innovation moving forward. Reading the print edition of the magazine with a white chocolate mocca on a weekend morning in Roastars is a monthly indulgence
  • South China Morning Post (SCMP online) – Despite the best efforts of the international business press such as the Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and The Economist; they are still woefully poor at covering the Asia Pacific region. Part of this I think as to do with an old order editorial mindset. This isn’t likely to change soon so I pay my annual subscription to get access to the SCMP online
  • STRATFOR – produce current affairs insight for the likes of mining or oil companies and military contractors. It is staffed by a mix of bright young things and ex-spooks. Subscribing to their service is like having your own think tank in your back pocket and makes The Economist look like a dessicated version of a Time Out guide
  • PR Week (UK) - I don’t pay for this directly, but instead it comes as part of my CIPR membership. Whilst it is often given short shrift within the industry, it is the closest thing we have to a publication of record. It is said that when Lord Chadlington was thinking about how to deal with the forthcoming recession, he sent in a researcher to comb the PR Week archives looking for answers in terms of what action agencies had previously taken during downturns and who had been the most successful. That may be all conjecture, but it proves the value of the publication if its true
  • Monocle – an entertaining read that covers current issues as well as The Economist, Monocle has a definite opinion and tone-of-voice. I also like that they don’t print on cheap paper and keep the design standard of the magazine strong
  • Econsultancy – for the cost effective market and tools reports. The compendium of internet statistics come in handy for client presentations. Subscriptions to the likes of Emarketer or Forrester aren’t affordable to an individual

The irregulars

  • The Irish Times – Ireland being a neutral Euro-centric country has more of an open worldview than portrayed by the UK media, combine this with gaelic games sports results and you have the prefect short haul flight paper for me to read
  • The New York Times - I have a particular soft spot for the weekend edition. The paper has a particular charm in the way it rigidly sticks to its outmoded print design. Alongside breakfasts (which is the height of American cuisine), The New York Times print edition is something I enjoy leafing through when I stop over in the US
  • MILK magazine - Hong Kong’s MILK is a source of constant amazement to me. Not only is it a good resource for shopping tips in both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, but I am also stunned by some of the blatant commercial things they pull off like the issue celebrating the fact that McDonalds restaurants are open around the clock. I get friends to bring me a copy when they are coming from Hong Kong and I like to pick it up at the newsstand when I am there
  • Financial Times – I occasionally like to leaf through the weekend edition of the Financial Times and find the product pr0n in How to Spend It quite fascinating because it is so ridiculous. How to Spend It should only be enjoyed in print as the online edition has the most appalling user experience and a technology | gadget section that tries to pretend that Apple doesn’t exist
  • DJ mag – I have been picking the occasional copy of DJ magazine up since it when it was called Jocks. Alongside Update its still a great resource for finding out about records that should be on my shopping list

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