I get the very strong impression that we are on the cusp of the next phase of information distribution. Kindle sales are booming, and there is competition aplenty for the black-and-white Amazon e-reader. Several new machines that cost at least $50 less than the Kindle now are on the market, with more seemingly on the way each week. In cooperation with Google, Sony is making available 500,000 free e-books for e-readers. It is important to note that Kindle sales figures are believed to have grown faster than iPod sales in the same time frame. That is very impressive. Most book publishers are adjusting and adapting to this new platform in one way or another at a rapid pace.
The Precision Media Group
Why do we read magazines? What is behind the allure of buying, owning and reading magazines? There are, of course, many answers to this question. But if we are truly honest with ourselves, we might be able to turn the tide of our businesses or, at the very least, start a process of self-analysis that leads eventually to psychological and financial recoveries.
As I crisscross the country in these difficult times delivering lectures on the future of publishing, I not only talk, but I listen very carefully. I listen to the fears, the bravado, the good ideas and the ever-so-slightly out-of-kilter unusuals. These would be creative members of our publishing brotherhood who have ideas from the fringe, new concepts for old business models.
With no government bailout in sight to rescue their ailing industries, more than 1,200 magazine- and book-publishing executives convened at the 2009 Publishing Business Conference & Expo in New York City, March 23-25, in search of strategies to help them weather the worsening storm. And while much of the discussion centered around cost-cutting, the topic of innovation took center stage throughout the event, which featured nearly 60 educational sessions and more than 125 speakers.
Clearly we are in a moment in history that I expect we all wish we were looking back on rather than living through. The Great Depression, which our grandfathers and great-grandfathers lived through, was not an easy time for anyone. But unlike the Great Depression, today the publishing community has been hit with a triple whammy in that we were already under attack by technology demons before the economic foundation of our advertising base was pulled out from under us, and at the same time, we were placed under an ecologic microscope. Technology, economics and ecology would be hard to fight individually, but en masse it will take great stewardship to survive the treacherous terrain.
As we move forward in this economic recession, it is important to remember that while some processes may be slowed, others will continue to fling us forward and create both unexpected opportunities and, depending on your perspective, unfortunate struggles to simply survive. We are faced with, some might say, “the terrible burden of a digital destiny.” As an industry, we will adjust and adapt to the conditions at hand, not necessarily because we want to, but because we must.
Does the current magazine business model have anything to do with sustainability? Not the ability to sustain ourselves as a business, but rather the new-age definition of environmental sustainability as defined by Wal-Mart. You remember Wal-Mart—the conglomerate that distributes nearly 25 percent of all newsstand titles? Oh, yes, you remember Wal-Mart—the mega-discount retailer that recently cut 1,000 magazine titles from its roster. But did you ever wonder why it did that? As I found on the Wal-Mart Web site, “through sustainability, Wal-Mart has saved billions of dollars in costs and has begun to drive profitable product innovation. Our goal: Offer our customers an increasing
I’ve been inundated lately with e-mail requests about the viability of digital magazine editions. The letter that put me over the top was from an old and dear acquaintance, who is a senior production director, that said, “Digital editions of magazines will never get traction with the magazine-reading public.” This is a ridiculous attitude. And if it is yours, too, bury it now with other ridiculous ideas like the world is flat and man will never fly. Perhaps Jeff Gomez, author of the book “Print Is Dead,” put it best when he wrote: “To expect future generations to be satisfied with printed books is
As you may know, my friend Samir Husni, also known as Mr. Magazine, tracks new magazine launches. He has done so for decades and has amassed a wealth of data. In his latest announcement, the overall numbers for our business are less than stellar. Many possible reasons exist for this decline. Both Husni and I can postulate about its causes, but neither of us actually knows. According to Husni: “The number of new magazine launches in the first quarter of 2008 (150) increased by five titles compared to Q1 2007. [While it was an increase,] it is still a far cry from the introduction