It was announced today that the buyout of National Geographic by 21st Century Fox earlier this year has resulted in almost 200 staffers being let go.
The very idea of what photojournalist and colleague Patrick Downs stated as “They’re (21st Century Fox) gonna mess up the jewel in the NGS crown” is a severe understatement.
And yet, the very technology that resulted in the demise of the publication as it was known in the past can very well become an asset.
You have all those experienced former staffers – Picture Editors, photographers, and more being let go as a result of Fox’s cost cutting measures.
Now consider the following:
Many of these former staffers meet with some business savvy people and begin to hatch a plan of creating a new version of the magazine. The talent that has been let go is already involved in the brainstorming sessions. Thus there’s no need to find experienced talent. They create the new venture as a benefit corporation. This eliminates any potential buyout from a for profit corporation like Fox – which is well known for climate change denial, and write into the charter/mission statement the core values so that they cannot be changed from their original intent for the publication. Once that has been defined, the actual logistics of producing content and printing the publication are streamlined. No longer chained to owning and operating their own offset printing presses, the magazine becomes an on demand print edition by which readers pay for each copy to be printed and mailed directly to them via a service like Magcloud, thereby removing the high costs of operating the presses and printing it themselves.
There are those who will say that it won’t be as slick as the original magazine. My response is what makes you think Fox won’t cut costs in printing to make more money? If done, that levels the playing field for print quality.
If this scenario does play out, by going this route for operating and printing the magazine, you can also be more timely in topics that have a timeliness to them. There are no constraints on how many pages get printed. That will be based on each edition and the price charged will be reflected accordingly. The current iteration of National Geographic has advertising in it. This can be done just as easily for the new publication – or it can be funded through endowments. The point being is that the very technology that has pushed the magazine to where it is today can just as easily be utilized to create a new publication that is leaner, meaner and still holds to the traditions and values of what National Geographic stood for in the past.
Maybe I’m a dreamer, but what’s to say this couldn’t happen?