Forty years ago, as the very first issue of Texas Monthly was being put together by Bill Broyles & Co., Life magazine folded. Though it would later resume publication (before finally folding again in 2007), and though it continues on today as a pretty amazing photo site, the coincidence of the legendary magazine’s demise and the new upstart’s birth served to make a point about the way the business was changing at the time. As Mike Levy, Texas Monthly’s founding publisher, wrote in his introductory note to readers:
The trend in magazine journalism away from big, mass circulation, general interest publications such as Life, Post, and Look towards the so-called ‘special market’ magazines, such as Psychology Today, New York, Sports Illustrated, and Road & Track. Americans are becoming more local in their perspectives, their interests are being narrowed and defined, and their magazine reading is being focused on what is going on in their own fields of interest and in their own backyards. Texas Monthly is a special market publication.
I’ve been thinking about this observation as we’ve been building this new website, which debuts today, on our fortieth birthday, at high noon low noon noon El Paso time … (what’s a few hours here or there?). Everyone knows that we’re living through another disruptive time in the journalism business. The web, and social media, and mobile devices, and everything else that you can squeeze under the umbrella of the Digital Age has upended the way readers read and the way journalists reach those readers and the way publishers make a business around the whole proposition. Texas Monthly’s print magazine has been an outlier to these trends. Our print product is a roaring, profitable enterprise that supports a large staff of exceptionally talented and experienced journalists doing exceptionally high-quality work. I’ll admit that this gives the magazine a sort of pleasantly old-fashioned feel at times: This is a place where, for a variety of reasons, the old way still works. But that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the pressure and see the opportunity presented by the way digital media are transforming our business. This new site is the biggest step we’ve yet taken to grab that opportunity.