Magazines rebound, print not going away
After all the sturm und drang about the “print is dead” predictions of 2008-2010, we learn now that “magazines made from paper-and-ink are sticking around.”
I was sent this link to Crain’s New York Business by someone who has an interest in print magazines sticking around, Wine Enthusiast’s publisher, Adam Strum.
Turns out, more print magazines are being launched this year than last, and fewer are going out of business. In fact, in a way, the health of print magazines parallels that of the housing market. Foreclosures are down in much of the country, as the market bounces back to pre-Recession levels.
When I began blogging, in the Spring of 2008, predictions of The Death of Print were widespread. And certainly, these prognosticators of gloom found plenty of evidence to support their claim. Newspapers were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. There were rumors the New York Times would close, the San Francisco Chronicle would go out of business, the Boston Globe was doomed.
Magazines experienced the same rebound effect. Between January, 2008–just as the Recession was taking hold, although most Americans weren’t yet aware of it–and January, 2009, when it hit with a vengeance, ad pages in U.S. magazines plunged 28%.
While it’s true that advertising has yet to reach its pre-Recession levels, media outlets report that total U.S. ad spending in magazines increased anywhere from 2.1%-2.6% in the first quarter of 2012, hinting at a steady albeit slow recovery.
I said in 2008 and 2009 that it was the Recession that was hurting magazines, not some inherent historical switch away from print. I’ll say it again today. If there’d been no Recession, print magazines would have done just fine. But there was a Recession. Advertising (which accounts for the vast majority of a magazine’s revenues) fell off the cliff, and so the magazines struggled. Certain people, mainly bloggers, saw this struggle and confused it for The Death of Print. Problem was, it just wasn’t so.
Now we see that magazines–the better ones, anyway–are springing back. That doesn’t mean, and I’m not saying, that print will survive the next ten years. There are a lot of problems with using paper to publish magazines, not the least of which is (from the publisher’s point of view) the costs of paper and shipping. It may well be that U.S. magazines someday will migrate away from paper to some sort of tablet or other device we can’t even imagine.
Savvy publishers already are anticipating that day and are planning accordingly. But whenever it happens, it’s still far enough away that we can predict with some confidence that print magazines that are successful today will remain successful into the 2020s, as long as they stay smart and current. “We’re going to have print until people work out the monetization of digital,” said an analyst quoted in the Crain’s article. Well, we’re no closer to the monetization of digital than we were in 2012, and in some ways we’re even further away. I don’t see that logjam breaking anytime soon, and the longer it takes, the longer print will stick around.