BoSacks Speaks Out on 'Mr. Magazine'
Yesterday, Samir Husni posted a tongue and cheek headline that stated, "What Recession? New Magazine Launches Up, Up, Up." I didn't like that headline. I'm not sure if it is his wonderful and abundant enthusiasm for the printed product, despite the evident reality of the situation, or his total disregard of the fear for the rest of the industry. Twenty percent of my friends are unemployed and the rest live with a daily and rational paranoia that they will be out of work tomorrow.
I will say that Samir and I both agree that print is not going to die and, in fact, it will have a nice and very long path to retirement.
I think that it is fantastic that he tracks all the entrepreneur publishers, and that he does not create a statistic until he has a printed copy in his hands. That is very commendable. But the number of new titles does not actually reflect the health of the industry as a whole. It only reflects one very small portion of the whole. There are 28,000 printed magazines out there. By his data, 2.5 percent were new print titles. But it's not the quantity of new titles published that is important; it's the sustainability. Does he track how many of those titles actually survive? What is the real survival trend? Is it a rising or falling trend? That would be very important data to consider before one declares that there is no recession for our industry, even in jest.
Everybody wants to be a publisher, so it never surprises me that there are always hundreds of new titles. But Samir's numbers are deceptive to a realistic forecast of where the industry is today and what the actual trends are. The trends, despite the numbers you post, are awful.
We are in a serious recession. We will recover.
But the print-on-paper business model is totally broken and when we do recover, it will be with a new set of rules and new business plans that we will enable print to survive. But the data he presents is irrelevant to the overall current reality that the industry is facing today.
When we recover, print will be one of many ways to distribute information. And the niche printed product will be around for many generations. Some of my friends who own printing plants will prosper and do very well. But printed products must share the dwindling advertising wealth with a multitude of new competitors. These competitors are very young, but also extremely robust. They grow every day and become better than they were yesterday. In the new publishing world, the digital page can do a dozen things the printed page can't do. I think the digital page should be respected and maybe feared, because whatever it can do today will be greatly improved tomorrow. To expect future generations of screenagers to be totally satisfied with printed products is like expecting the BlackBerry users of today to start writing letters with quill pens and using human messengers instead of IMs. We are not going back; we as an industry are moving forward. It's not the substrate that is important; it is the words with which we communicate.
Samir, I look forward to our next public debate.