In an age of ephemera, the permanence of a print niche magazine has an other-worldly appeal.
A print magazine in the paranormal niche might be considered something of an “out-of-place” artifact or anachronism, notes Chris Sutcliffe in the Media Briefing. Sutcliffe is referring to The Fortean Times, which has seen its printed circulation tick upward this year.
“At first glance the Fortean Times – a UK-based magazine that reports on the paranormal – would appear to be something of an out-of-place artifact,” Sutcliffe explains. “With the internet providing an endless parade of free sites dedicated to exploring the supernatural, why would anyone choose to read a monthly magazine they have to pay for?”
The answer, according to the magazine’s art director Etienne Gilfallin, is that the title firmly occupies a unique position in the market.
“How do we survive in a very different media landscape? It is a journal of record,” Gilfallin explains. “We collect ephemeral stories that would otherwise just come and go by monitoring the news; in some ways FT is like the internet before the internet existed. It brings together all this mad, crazy random stuff, tiny bits of news that are collected and put in a context… to be on record.”
As Sutcliffe explains, the anachronism comes into play when you consider that “[m]any of the most interesting recent developments in the paranormal fandom have been enabled by those internet communities.”
Given their comfort and familiarity with using the Internet in this niche, some might assume that this audience wouldn’t be interested in print. Not true, notes Gilfallin, and it comes down to the thing that print does very well that digital simply can’t.
“It comes back to the idea of a bit of curation, really. That’s the thing we can do that you can’t really get online,” Gilfallin explains. “That’s the trouble, really… in the media landscape in general. There is too much information, too little context, not enough shaping of the material to give you anything other than a sense of complete chaos.”
In a niche full of mystery and the unknown, The Fortean Times is finding a loyal and highly interested audience for its tangible and finite title. No mystery there.