Sometimes Monkeys — and Magazines — Just Die

newsweek-last-print-issue-01-2012“Let’s accept that magazines will close, that no magazine has a right to exist and that the loss of some will be offset by the creation of others.”

Stuff happens. In life and in the publishing business.

Rob Alderson writing in MagCulture reminds us that the closing of a magazine occurs for any number of reasons. He writes about ESPN’s recent announcement that they are closing Grantland, a four-year old sports site that featured long form writing with magazine-style content, and their quarterly blog-to-print magazine.

“Every time a title announces that it has printed its last, the tributes tend to tip into a kind of collective grief and a bewailing of whichever forces are supposed to have led to its downfall,” Alderson writes.

“Whenever this happens, I am reminded of the Friends episode where Ross goes to check on the pet monkey he had given to a zoo, only to find it has died (aficionados of the show will know the monkey had actually become a movie star, but that needn’t concern us here). Shocked to hear his beloved Marcel is no more, Ross is comforted by the zoo manager.

“’I’m sorry Mr. Geller. But you know, there’s an old saying: ‘Sometimes monkeys die.’ It’s not a great saying, but it certainly is fitting today,’” he continues.

“Similarly, sometimes magazines die. The reasons for this can be numerous and complex, or singular and straightforward,” Alderson notes. “They can be financial or cultural, caused by bad owners, bad editors or bad decisions. Some magazines close because they can’t or won’t adapt, others close because they change too much. They may run out of steam or they may jump the shark – countless other metaphors are available. Some brilliant magazines close; so do many terrible ones.”

He’s right, of course. What we find interesting though, is that when a website shutters, there’s no hand-wringing cry that the Internet is dying. It’s just a site that didn’t make it, for whatever reason.  Sure, there are larger market trends that may make success easier or harder at a particular time, but the decision to close – or launch – a magazine is as unique as each title.