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May 4, 2010
by Murrye Bernard Assoc. AIA LEED AP

Event: The Changing State of the Design Press: Now What?
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.26.10
Panelists: Julie V. Iovine — Executive Editor, The Architect’s Newspaper; Michael Sorkin — Principal, Michael Sorkin Studio; John Hill — Founder, A Daily Dose of Architecture; Robert Ivy, FAIA — Editor-in-Chief, Architectural Record
Moderator: Kristen Richards, Hon. ASLA — Editor-in-Chief, OCULUS & ArchNewsNow.com
Organizers: AIANY Marketing & PR Committee; Oculus Committee
Sponsors: Hausman LLC; Trespa

First Metropolitan Home, followed by I.D., and most recently BD+C — a string of design publications have folded. It’s no secret that we’re buying fewer print publications and more often turning to the web for our design news and inspiration. The design press is in flux. Panelists from several major architectural publications gathered to ponder the question, “now what?”

The state of the design press is not just a concern for publications’ staff and writers, but relevant for architects and firms as well. These publications provide exposure for their work, not only to each other, but to the general public and potential clients. Is the economy solely to blame? Or is it also technology? More and more architects are turning to social media to promote themselves and to network. According to a recent survey by Function, an Atlanta-based AEC branding firm, 10% of architects are active on Facebook; 5% use Twitter; 28% use Amazon’s social features; while 35% of those surveyed are on LinkedIn.

Since technology has democratized the field, moderator Kristen Richards, Hon. ASLA, editor of both OCULUS and ArchNewsNow.com, questioned whether architecture critics could be “an endangered species.” Design blogs have proliferated, offering up information in bite-sized chunks. Now everyone can be a critic. However, it’s not all original; John Hill, founder of the blog A Daily Dose of Architecture, thinks that much of the content is dictated by design firms and their PR teams who send out press packets. For Michael Sorkin, all of these online outlets are “waging a war on our attention spans.” Sorkin, who lost his cell phone nine months ago and hasn’t bothered to replace it, marveled at the fact that he recently had to delete 18,000 sent messages from his computer to free up space. “That’s three Anna Karenina’s worth!”

One of the biggest challenges publications face now is keeping information flowing on all fronts, said Julie Iovine, executive editor of The Architect’s Newspaper. While print is the most carefully edited, standards must be maintained on the web, too. “I don’t think we’re married to paper, but we are married to visual display,” said Robert Ivy, FAIA, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record. To keep up with demand, Record incorporates video, live events, and Continuing Education opportunities. “We [design publications] are asked to do a lot.”

So, what next? Ivy believes the design press will remain essential in their role as “curators of content,” sifting through vast quantities of information to present the best to readers. Ultimately, the panel didn’t have specific answers as far as what medium that content will take, or who will be calling the shots. Iovine takes comfort in the fact that no one really knows, so “we’re all in the same boat.”

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