It would be too easy to make fun of a bunch of wheezy old codgers bowing to the inevitable onslaught of new media with all the grace of King Canute (there's something endearingly cheeky about the "as we understand they are called" remark), but the magazine's decision to engage with the Internet is certainly an intriguing addition to the online canon, and the move represents some sort of sea- change in the demographic appeal of the medium. A stubborn bastion of grey prejudice, Conrad Black's favourite magazine doesn't decide to compete in such a young man's game without putting in some serious contemplation.
Of course, the Internet will ultimately prove to be an indispensable tool for the ageing population. For one thing, as health issues become more and more paramount in people's lives as they age, an online database of information about the latest treatments and techniques will be very handy.
There is already plenty on the Internet for the grey generation - after all, The Daily Telegraph, that other bastion of Middle England, was one of the first newspapers to get an online equivalent up and running. There are plenty of online magazines offering serious, non- technical editorial, but I've yet to see one specifically aimed at a more mature audience. This is clearly about to change, but the key to it happening is for the potential readership to be online. Then the editorial will follow.
On the other hand, perhaps it's a bit disingenuous to suggest the over-50s aren't already being catered for. Saga, a magazine for over-45s, has a website, for example, which covers holidays (anything from Torquay to the Galapagos Islands). Older travellers are notoriously enthusiastic about adventurous holidays. I know of one 65-year-old who went trekking in India and came back complaining that his younger companions couldn't take the pace. One travel company offers trekking holidays for over-50s around Mount Everest. The route is the same as that offered by many other companies but this one moves at a more leisurely pace and avoids the higher altitudes of the route.
So while there's no doubt that a market for Internet readers of The Spectator exists, but I do have a word of warning: there's a magazine already online called Spectator, but hopefully not many of Frank Johnson's readers will end up there accidentally. It's based in San Francisco, the liberal heartland of America, and I'm not going to tell you the web address because, well, it just happens to be a sex magazine.
Trekking for the over-50s
Saga's home page, aimed at over 50sReuse content