The View From The Tree: A Tale of Two Bit.lys
Magazines' ad pages went from "Flat is the new up" about five years ago to "Slightly down is the new up," and then to "Down single digits is the new up." These days many magazines are reporting that their pages are actually up versus a year ago.
But I don't know of anyone who thinks there's never been a better time for magazines. In fact, even Mary Berner doesn't seem to believe that. Note that she referred not to "the magazine business" but rather "the business of Magazine Branded Media."
(Kudos to Berner for citing, in the same press release, BoSacks, a long-time thorn in the side of the industry's establishment who had offered to fix the MPA by serving as its president. Hmm, barely reformed hippie BoSacks as head of the industry's largest trade association? As they say in the South, that would have been "more fun than firecrackers in church.")
Like many, I snickered in 2011 when the Magazine Publishers of America changed its name to MPA, the Association of Magazine Media. But it's starting to make more sense.
Magazine publishers, at least the successful ones, are no longer just magazine publishers. They are using their publications as springboards to thrive in a variety of "magazine branded media." That's not exactly a new concept: Publishers like National Geographic, Rodale and Kalmbach long ago built strong book businesses. But in the past few years the aggressive pursuit of multiple "ancillary" enterprises has become the rule rather than the exception for publishers.
In the early days of the Internet we moved cautiously, dipping our toes into the water with "retread" magazine articles and a few banner ads. Now we have sophisticated "digital-first" and "digital-only" offerings with an ever-growing list of ways to "monetize" our Web traffic. The search engines are learning to filter out spam and to favor websites with content that people actually want, which is boosting traffic for many publishers' websites.