From the Editor: Some Perspective on the New Year
"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
I love this industry. I've been a part of it for 15 years. I believe in the power of print, and I am sure this is why I was once called an "old-school, print cheerleader," or something like that. I know it was meant as a criticism, but I didn't take it as one. However, it would be more accurate to say I am a publishing cheerleader. I want publishers to succeed in print, online, with digital content, video, mobile content, events, data products, lead generation, wherever, whatever. … And I believe they can.
But I have my moments where cheering is tough.
This has been one of the most difficult periods in publishing history. We are seeing brilliant editors and writers, and manufacturing, production, circulation and sales executives—friends and respected colleagues—in the unemployment line or holding odd jobs, such as working at supermarkets, just to pay the bills. We are seeing publications we know and love close their doors. We are seeing our vendor partners struggle. It's disheartening to say the least.
But thinking back on some of the publishing companies and publications we've covered just in the past few months provides a dose of optimism:
• Hoffman Media—seeing ad-page and ad-revenue growth for Cooking with Paula Deen, among other titles;
• Food Network Magazine—rapid circ growth from 300,000 to 1 million in one year, and frequency growth from six to 10 issues;
• FADER Media—offsetting print-revenue decline with significant growth in online and events; TheFader.com traffic more than doubled from September '08 to September '09; revenue more than quadrupled;
• Canon Communications—offsetting the bulk of losses (ad pages dropped about 30 percent in Q1) in print-ad revenue with growth in its events business—55 percent of the company's revenue, including launching two new shows in April;
• The Week—growing its subscription base from 100,000 to 500,000 and counting; online subscriptions (to the print magazine) doubling in two years.
It is a difficult time indeed, and significant losses in print revenue have been, unfortunately, more common than not. Even publishers who always seem to do everything right have been flat this year—e.g., Consumer Reports—exemplifying that "flat is the new up."
But, like most businesses, publishers have a way of adapting. Facing such strain is bringing out the best in many of us (though unfortunately the worst in some). Publishing is not dying; it's just changing.
Samir Husni, aka Mr. Magazine, wrote in his guest column for Publishing Executive earlier this year: "For every magazine that shut its doors in 2008, at least 20 new magazines were born. Magazines die, and magazines are born. That is the cycle of life."
That is not carte blanche to keep conducting business as usual. But it is, perhaps, some well-needed perspective. Call me a publishing cheerleader if you want, but I think we have a bright future ahead of us.
Happy holidays … and best wishes for a happy and profitable New Year!