Meredith Publications, based in Des Moines, Iowa has announced that it will be closing Ladies Home Journal after 131 years in publication. Although the monthly edition and subscriptions will no longer exist, the Ladies Home Journal brand will continue as a quarterly Special Interest Publication(SIP) which will only be available on the newsstand. Despite a relatively healthy circulation of 3.2 million, according to PIB, advertising revenue was down dramatically. Total “ad pages fell 22% from 112 in the first quarter of 2013 to 87 in the first quarter of 2014.” The entire magazine’s editorial staff will be laid off.
Perhaps instead of killing the title, it would have been prudent to raise the newsstand and subscription prices so that the title would be less ad driven and more sales driven. There is enough evidence that proves this a valid choice, i.e. Taunton Press, publishers of Fine Cooking, Fine Homebuilding and Fine Woodworking and numerous SIPs, The Economist and Harvard Business Review to name only a few. I completely reject the notion that one of the main reasons for the decline in magazine sales is cost. Magazines remain one of the least expensive information/entertainment resources that exists in this current market. It’s total nonsense and unsubstantiated, merely conjecture. People find the money to pay their $200 cable and cell phone bills, I’m sure they can find an extra $4.00 or $5.00 to purchase a periodical. It’s about choice and providing content that interests the reader. It’s not about digital. As Dr Samir Hosni, the director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, School of Journalism. has pointed out many times, not one single magazine has ceased their print edition and survived in a digital only format. Newsweek is the most recent example.
While this may seem like another nail in the coffin in the very challenging world of Magazine publishing, it should not be viewed that way. Yes there will always be those people who reminisce about their childhood and Woodstock, but perhaps this closure will at last demonstrate the need to live in the present and leave the past behind. The fact that a 131 year old title is closing is not an indication of future success. Cars live on despite the closures of American Motors, and the Pontiac and Plymouth brands. People still love print. Place content on the cover and inside the pages that people want to read and they will buy it. It will be interesting to see the sales of the latest issues of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People, (I was not in there surprisingly) and Us Weekly with the new Royal Baby on the cover. I will go out on a limb and suggest that sales on both titles are brisk.
Publishers need to discover a way, the way, to use digital, to enhance magazines and to drive magazine sales using technology. The first publishers to do so will see their titles grow substantially. After several years of magazine decline, due in large part to the closure of Anderson News, Walden Books, and Borders, which by the way seems forgotten in the declining sales numbers, magazine sales will stabilize at some level. One can only hope that when it happens, all those involved in the chain will be ready to drive forward instead of tread water which had been the case even before the collapse of the economy in 2008.
So while the rest of the magazine publishing world continues the pessimistic approach, I intend on doing anything and everything I can to drive magazine and book sales and to partner with the publishers, wholesalers and distributors to make whatever changes are necessary to not only end the decline but to reverse it. Hopefully I will have partners who feel the same way.