Mixed Blessings 4 Magazines

According to Mr. Magazine,

“The number of new magazine launches for the third quarter of 2008 exceeded that of the similar period of 2007 by 29 magazines. For the first time this year, the new magazine launches reversed the huge downturn trend that started with the third quarter of 2007 and continued throughout the first half of 2008.”

While this means that obviously those starting new magazines don’t believe the industry is doing as poorly as those in it do, it also means more competition for decreasing ad dollars. But, while most magazines that have passed their first birthday are worried, according to Media Life MagazinesEurope’s business elite has increased its readership.”

You may think this just means that the business elite are an older generation – but according to the survey that reveled these findings, those same people have “ramped up their consumption of news online,” but

“…they have not cut back on their consumption of traditional sources of news. Key among the reasons, believe the researchers, the print titles are portable, which fits well into an on-the-go lifestyle. But another key factor is trust. Those readers trust what they read in those publications over what they read online.”

This seems to be extremely positive. It means that there is a differentiation here between print publications and online media that is possibly, hopefully, a sign of a new trend that will filter down. It’s consumers consuming print (vs electronic media) BECAUSE it is print. Rather then reading the news on their blackberries or other small electronic devices they are reading it in print because of what print offers that online media does not: gatekeepers.

Editors have always been the gatekeepers of the printed word, filtering and verifying information so that the reader was presented with well-written truth. Online, one of the main complaints of people in the industry is that there are no gatekeepers. Anything can be published, changed, updated… etc. at any time. Hopefully, we will see an increase in the number of consumers who turn to print media as a ‘verified’ and ‘trusted’ source of news and information.

In a way, this would mean that the internet’s success would be its downfall: because anyone can publishing anything and because there is such a proliferation of words on the web, it’s harder for consumers to sort and they have to work to verify it themselves. As they recognize this more and more, perhaps the web will become primarily a source for new ideas and opinions while print will remain in it’s more traditional roll.

Internet can not be a ‘trusted’ source because websites compete to have information available first – sacrificing editing in the process.

The other interesting trend that this shows print media being valued for it’s portability. (And, in the case of news, possibly also for how disposable it is). People like the idea that they can buy something fairly cheap, read it, be informed by a source they trust, and when they are done they can throw it away (I actually don’t throw away my magazines – I keep them, but most people probably don’t).

As people in publishing, perhaps we should look at these two ideas, these two reasons that people ‘value’ print and try to find new ways to use them to our advantage. Can we make print MORE trustworthy or more disposable? Cheaper?

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3 Comments on “Mixed Blessings 4 Magazines”

  1. eoinpurcell Says:


    I like your thoughts. I work in book publishing rather than magazine publishing but I believe we face simillar problems!

    Far be it for me to suggest an alternative more positive way to view the data you are discussing.

    If there is trust in a magazine amongst readers that trust stems not from the delivery method (print in most cases) but from the built up value of editorial decision making as you correctly highlight.

    There is no reason therefore that the trust value of a brand cannot be successfully ported onto the internet. The Atlantic is a good example of how that can be done and to a much more mass scale one would only need to look at the impact major media brands are making on internet news, from The New York Times to MSNBC and even the BBC.

    Although print might remain forever, it does not mean that most readers will be print readers nor does it mean that portability will remain a strength of print. With handheld readers growing in popularity and mobile/cell phones beginning to be usable as text reading devices on a large scale, I’d suggest that the the magazine that is not online and promoting the brand values that it promotes in print, will wither and die eventually!

    As for publishers we need to figure out how to achieve that porting and how to make it profitable! We sure as hell cannot stop it!


  2. mbreau Says:

    Hi Eoin –

    Thanks for the comments – in most cases I competely agree with you, which is why I post so often on HOW companies can and are making that switch from print to digital. Some of the ideas they have used and how they have faired ….

    In light of the articles I quote, however, I thought that they make a case for those clutching to print-only media. And, while I think that ultimately anyone who does not figure out how to go digital will fail – if you go to my post titled “Repost: Ebook vs Paper” there is a link to a very intersting article, that I highly recommend. Essentially, it says to pretend that digital was around first and someone introduces the idea of print. It then makes a case for why they might do that. Very neat.

    I’ll be sure to check out your blog for your views on the issues in the near future.


  3. eoinpurcell Says:

    Hey Melissa,

    Thanks for the pointer! I’ll go ahead and read it!

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