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Are Print Magazines Dead?
This question is completely valid given the current social climate – never has the human race had so much information available at the tips of its fingers. This availability coincides with the simple truth that much of this information is actually free, too – for magazine publishers (and book publishers) this has potentially deadly ramifications.
Honestly, though, does the fact that we CAN access all of this information suddenly mean that we are no longer willing to pay for it? Further, even if we are willing to pay, can we really be bothered to head down to our local shop and purchase a hard copy of our favorite publication when we could just download it online instead?
There isn’t one simple answer, but several facts hold up, as they always have, and one of those facts is that we really like magazines. For some people, either heading down to the supermarket or receiving their latest subscription issue of a leading publication is a huge and exciting part of their month, and it’s a buzz that many of us wouldn’t change for anything. Many of the industry leaders agree. For instance, Jonathan Nowell (the president of Nielsen Book) had this to say about the current state of the industry:
“For the foreseeable future, we will operate in a hybrid print and digital world.” 1
Likewise, the chairman of Time Inc., Joe Ripp, weighed in with his opinion on the power of the magazine industry with these wise words:
“The reality is that we will continue to invest heavily in new revenue opportunities. The reality is that the magazine business in magazine media is an exciting place to be. We are at a point of transformation. We have incredible power. The challenge for all of us, are we going to invest wisely in the future or are we going to keep crying that it’s not the same way it was 10 years ago? I go for the future.” 2
Judging by these comments by two of the most influential figures in the publication industry, it’s fair to say that magazines really do still have a very strong foot hold on the market. But how do the industry leaders protect that grasp?
Even though no one denies that magazines are still wholly relevant, it’s important that those in the upper echelons of the industry address the changing social climate and stay as current as possible if they want to keep their publications alive. It’s with these changes in mind that the likes of Maria Rodale have shared their wisdom on the current economy of the publishing industry, especially when considering the advent of tablets and phones as internet-ready portable reading devices:
“Personalization in the magazine industry is not a new idea. I remember someone coming up with it at an offsite meeting in the early 1990s. Why has it taken us all so long? For example, as a travel lover, I would pay extra for newsletters (digital or print) or special editions that focus specifically on the areas of my interest. And if you ask me what they are I will tell you, and then you can sell that information to advertisers. This is not rocket science.” 3
Rodale also shared some thoughts on the future of the industry:
“We as an industry have undervalued our products and overvalued ourselves. We’ve allowed our margins to be eaten away by everything from the Post Office to huge overheads and high expenses while giving away our best content for free. Somebody, somewhere (and soon) is going to figure this out and create a new business model.” 3
This is incredibly true, and even the most passionate magazine enthusiasts would agree that the traditional magazine model is fast changing. Still, one look at Joyann King’s comments make one realize that hard copy magazines can always stay relevant:
“The biggest challenge is being loyal to the magazine’s heritage while staying relevant in the digital space.” 4
This statement brings us on to our closing question; what does the future hold for magazine publishing?
Much like our opening question, the answer is not simple. Even so, should the most influential figures in the industry remain vigilant, and should they keep their fingers on the pulse?
Printed publications are a totally separate entity to online content, and this is where the potential of the industry has really reached previously unachievable levels. It’s well known within the marketing industry that the average member of the general public needs to view an advertisement at least three times across three different mediums in order to really take notice of the information being processed. It’s that fundamental reason that proves that magazines are always going to have their place.
No matter what the content is, every magazine wants to deliver a message, make a statement, or inform an otherwise ignorant mind. Simply seeing the magazine on the shelves once may not be enough, but should the same person see an advertisement online then see the publication in their favorite television show, the chances are high that their new found brand awareness will tempt them into purchasing the publication next time they head to the local supermarket.
This is why there has never been a better time for magazines – with the advent of the internet, they will now be more visible than ever. And that’s a really good thing.