Rex and I shared a walk through Rite-AID at this year’s AAA. I forgot to call him on the whole Arctic scent thing (I think it’s a bizarre Hawaiian Costco phenom which doesn’t exist on the mainland), because I was too focused on finding the Perfect Award for our Best two out of three categories contest winner (i.e. Greg Downey and his multiple crews at Culture Matters and Neuroanthropology). During our chats, I asked Rex who he thought our audience was at SM. The discussion was enlightening (for me at least, but I’m a slow thinker). What I found interesting was how he characterized the two moieties making up (at least some of) our audience. On the one hand: borderline academics. Those who are not career anthropologists, but may have degrees at various stages, jobs outside the academy or just a healthy interest in the subject. On the other hand: professional academics in anthropology. The former are people who do not have broad access to the discipline’s official research (as we repeatedly point out in our discussions around Open Access), and may (mistakenly) view SM as an emissary from the professional center of the discipline. You read the posts and you comments freely. Without you we would be nothing. The latter, however, may read intently, and may also mis-perceive who we are, but are unlikely to ever post a comment. I would never know that such people exist if I didn’t get regular email from them responding to me directly, instead of posting publicly on the blog.
After talking with Rex, I had a conversation with Emily Martin about all the success of the new Anthropology magazine AnthroNow. Along with discussing how it would be possible to get the clothing store Anthropologie to carry the mag (there is an article in the 1st issue on the store), we talked about the role Savage Minds played as inspiration, and the differences between a blog and a professional magazine. AnthroNow’s publisher is Paradigm Publishers, and apparently, though books are not a growth market, magazines continue to be. I’m not surprised, and I won’t be surprised to see AnthroNow take off in the next couple of years. Given the amount of attention that this blog has gotten, I think a good, well-designed anthropology magazine is a no-brainer, and my conversation with Rex about our audiences confirms this for me… both of those audiences are likely to find AnthroNow a desirable thing.
Which raises an interesting question: why are magazines taking off in the era of blogs? My answer to Dr. Martin was that search doesn’t work. Despite Google, I still turn to magazines as arbiters of taste, as collectors of the arcane and obscure, as vehicles for connoisseurship, and I suspect others do too. Add to this simple pleasures of reading a magazine, the self-fashioning associated with displaying it on a coffee table, and the ability to keep it on view on a bookshelf. Obviously magazines serve a different purpose than search on the net… but that doesn’t quite explain why they should be getting more, rather than less profitable (assuming of course, this is true… I haven’t actually checked this fact). In any case, I view AnthroNow as a huge step in the right direction for the discipline, and once more confirmation that anthropologists should look elsewhere than the AAA for guidance in how we run our discipline.