During one of my journalism classes in the early ’70s at the University of Tennessee, a vendor came in to give us a glimpse of the future newsroom: a computer for writing and editing stories.
There was no talk then of everyone having their own computer, and virtually each one being able to talk with every other computer on earth, and all that would portend. But even before people were pinching and zooming on pocket-sized screens, the efficiency of the internet made it clear that reader and advertiser support for the expensive business model of printing and delivering periodicals would dwindle one day.
Now the day has come for Overdrive. The December issue is our last print edition. The good news is that it’s anything but a funeral for our expanding ability to deliver valuable information to owner-operators, most of whom have already been drifting away from their ink-stained first love.
Over-the-road drivers have helped lead the long-term trend of readers in all niches gravitating toward getting news and other content on their smartphones. Accordingly, advertisers and publishers have chased their audiences into phones and computers. By 2023, national magazine advertising revenue is expected to be a third of what it was only a decade earlier.
Meanwhile, Overdrive owner Randall-Reilly has done extremely well with fine-tuning digital outreach for all our magazine brands to keep up with that trend. Our annual surveys show readers spending increasing amounts of time with our newsletters, social media and websites, and less time flipping paper pages.
We’ll serve those readers even better in January, when we introduce redesigned newsletters and websites. This isn’t just a cosmetic makeover. We’re planning structural changes that will make it easier to find the news, features, opinions, videos, podcasts and more that fit your needs. There will also be new, targeted trucking newsletters.
I don’t mean to sugarcoat the end of a printed Overdrive. Having worked my whole career in print, I’ll miss putting together an attractive, carefully curated, physical product, knowing that it’s a welcome treat for many an owner-operator to find in the mailbox after a grueling haul.
But whatever good things come to mind when you think about magazines, the downsides of any monthly publication have become more noticeable. Most such magazines are seriously lacking in timeliness and, without the advertising support of yesteryear, the size to satisfy readers.
You deserve better, and in many ways electronic media does the job. It offers almost instantaneous delivery, room for whatever content is available, and 24/7 access that’s as close as your phone.
So it’s good-bye to an old friend and time for the next venture, as Beat writer Jack Kerouac put it in his road-trip classic “On the Road”: “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
See you online in the new year.