Magazines – Just the Facts

There has been so much written about magazines recently that it’s important to put all of the facts in to perspective.  First, magazine single copy sales have been on the decline for a number of years.  The downturn coincided with the start of the recession in 2007.  But even prior to that, the shuddering of Anderson News, the largest magazine wholesaler at the time, cost the industry untold harm that was permanent and irreversible.  Second, digital media is not the sole reason magazine sales have continued to slide even as the economy has improved. Third, the refusal of the industry to grow and change has added precipitously to the slide in magazine sales.  The fact is, digital is not causing the demise of magazine sales, the battle for time is.  The radio replacing newspaper and television replacing movies argument, no longer applies.  There are simply so many different ways to spend time, and not enough hours in the day.  In this case, the least sophisticated reading format is losing out.  Children under the age of fifteen aren’t reading magazines in large numbers.  If they read anything, it’s books such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Hunger Games.  And many do so on their e-reader or I-Pad.  The e-readers/tablets are effective for several reasons; no clutter, easy storage, and “cool factor”.  Having said that, printed Magazines and Books will continue to exist for many years to come.  If the 916 page Vogue Fall Fashion issue doesn’t support that claim, nothing will.  But there will continue to be many changes including decreases in marketing budgets and shrinking of main lines in retail outlets; it’s a vicious cycle.  Magazine publishers have done very little to help themselves, buying in to digital and social media at the very last moment.  They are now playing catchup which is why such a small proportion of their readership in most cases, is digital.  But nothing changes more quickly than technology and it will continue to evolve.  If the publishers keep pace, the market for reading material, whether print or digital, will as well.  The industry must end its antiquated, addle-pated thinking.  What was, will never be again.  Who wants to drive a car without air conditioning, wash dishes by hand or listen to transistor radios? Digital and social media are here to stay.  Adapt and run with them instead of continuing a fight that cannot be won.  If that happens, the industry will be viable and may even thrive, for many years to come.

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