Kelly Scott Madison

What's Next For Magazines?



With most subscription and revenue numbers stuck in a lull, is a Netflix-style platform the next move for magazines? 

It’s no secret that the growth of the online content market constricted the traditional newsprint and magazine publishing industries in both subscription numbers and overall revenue. Though the most dramatic decline in revenue was largely confined to the years of 2008 and 2009, it has been widely reported that the days of the traditional magazine are numbered. However, the content creation and management skills of the publishing industry have been cultivated over decades and its staying power should not be underestimated. Unlike the traditional newsprint sector, which struggled to define their differentiating factors in an Internet-based 24-hour news cycle, magazines have long relied on their special relationships with readers and their ability to provide unique content that sets them apart from their competitors. The titles that didn’t (namely the newsweeklies) were some of the first to fold in the wake of the rise of Internet news.

Those which have survived have been forced to fight a continuous battle for relevancy in order to attempt to maintain circulation numbers. As recent data shows some troubling indicators for the future, it’s clear that the magazine industry won’t have an easy road. Decreasing newsstand sales are one of the most troubling signs of what’s to come. If impulse purchasing is commonly thought to be a signifier that the general public can still be enticed by the unique content touted on print covers, it seems their appetite is waning. For most titles, newsstand sales represent only about 7 percent of total revenue, so the alarming declines don’t signify the end of magazines. However, they could be a harbinger of doom.

In an effort to keep magazines top-of-mind and accessible to all, consumer titles have experimented with digital formats over the past 10 years. In nearly every case, converting the glossy pages of traditional publications to an interactive, convenient and competitive version has been an expensive and complicated challenge. The endeavor is also nearly impossible to replicate consistently over the course of a traditional publishing schedule. It is generally understood that magazines’ strongest asset is their ability to capture attention and connection in a manner not replicated by anyother medium. Unfortunately, the industry has not been able to replicate that attention on a digital platform, nor have theydetermined how to fully monetize engagement levels in the face of ever-cheapening CPMs (cost per thousand) on large scale digital platforms.There’s no doubt that the magazine business model doesn’t work in a modern, online world where competition for 24/7 eyeballs increases daily. Up to this point, struggling magazine brands have... 

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