Regional Titles Getting Their Hands Dirty

Rhode Island Monthly 2015 Summer Guidejpg_Page1One industry voice says that publishers of local magazines need to be extremely careful with the dangerous game they are playing with their readers.

Regional magazines continue to be one of the bright spots in the magazine garden, a trend we’ve been reporting on since last year.

Yet for John Palumbo, owner of Rhode Island Monthly Communications and a strong voice representing the regional niche, there is danger ahead for publishers that identify more as businessmen than journalists.

“Journalism: the altruistic, all-encompassing term that means so many things in today’s media landscape. In the world of regional magazine publishing, it is a passion and a problem, a holy-grail like trait that for so many in the local media world these days is nonexistent,” Palumbo writes in Folio:.

He writes of the growing use of native advertising in the regional market, which he says has fueled an irreverence of the standards of journalism and the blurred lines between editorial church and state.

“Yes, we are all guilty of too many (albeit properly labeled) special marketing sections,” Palumbo asserts. “And yes, we have all ventured into the digital equivalent on our web portals, Facebook pages, and Twitter. However, the new breed of media entrepreneurs often appear to have nothing but disdain for the church and state standards.”

“So many of us in the regional world are confronted with unscrupulous competitors who would just as easily sell a positive story in conjunction with an advertising commitment without a second thought,” he explains. “Add to that the web portal magazines, local news sites, bloggers, the adoption of product placement and endorsements in locally produced lifestyle television, and it’s no wonder the local advertiser—whether savvy or not—is confused about what works and doesn’t work. Unfortunately, the value of journalism is lost because so many of the alternatives are ‘just so cheap.’”

Palumbo makes a compelling case for a return to editorial integrity at the regional level. That customer base is too close at hand to deceive for long, and there is no way to replace them if that relationship goes awry.

His advice? Let journalism work for you, and against your rivals. Food for thought.