By Samantha Mitchell
October 7 ushered in four days of excitement and enthusiasm with the start of the Act 5 Experience. This is the fifth year that the Magazine Innovation Center, headed by Dr. Samir Husni, has sponsored the conference, which brings magazine industry professionals from around the world to the University of Mississippi.
Speakers included editors such as Vanessa Bush of Essence and Keith Bellows of National Geographic Traveler, presidents of companies such Michael Clinton of Hearst Magazines and Gil Brechtel of Magnet and chief creative officers such as Brian Hart Hoffman of Hoffman Media and Haines Wilkerson of Morris Media Network, among others.
Whichever side of the industry or background perspective the speakers came from, the common thread of the conference was the question of whether or not print is “dead,” declining, or, even perhaps, thriving in the Digital Age. Michael Clinton, president of marketing for Hearst Magazines, pointed to Food Network and HGTV magazines as examples of thriving publications, calling them a “$100 million success.”
“How can this happen in a world where print is dead?” Clinton asked.
William “Billy” Morris, chairman of Morris Communications, added that “the practice of gathering and preparing content for journalism has changed over the past fifty years whereas digital has disrupted the medium of journalism, but certainly not the necessity of it.”
Thanks to the publisher of Delta Magazine, Scott Coopwood, the ACT 5 participants received a private tour of Mississippi Delta tour. In Clarksdale, they visited The Shack Up In and The Blues Museum, and had dinner at Morgan Freeman’s “blues joint,” Ground Zero.
According to John Harrington, publisher of The New Single Copy newsletter, student involvement really set ACT 5 apart from other conferences.
“The students are what I find to be the most exciting, the most memorable of the experience,” Harrington said.