The Publishing Canary Theory Revisited
For years I have held the position that newspapers were the canaries in the mine for the magazine business. Whatever the fluctuations in our businesses -- positive or negative -- they have always happened first in newspapers.
Today, the alarms are ringing loud and clear in every magazine publishing house around the world. We are in trouble. Advertising results from last year are bad and getting even worse. No, not all of us, but yes, many of us, are in extreme peril.
There is common folklore among magazine publishers that magazines are perceived differently than newspapers, which to me is a very thin line of logic. You know the old concept that a paper is read for an hour, while a magazine is a cherished friend that is read and reread for days, weeks or even months. That may have been true once for the majority of magazine readers, but now only beloved niche titles can claim that honor. Both the times and the reading public have changed. It is a tenuous thread told to advertisers who now want more than "pass-along-readership" numbers. Today's advertisers want real-time data, identity, history and buying patterns. In short, they want numeric accountability. Got any?
It has taken just a few years for newspapers to come face to face with their imminent demise. Some have moved to the Web, while others have just closed up shop. The reading public has gone to the Web for their news, and who can blame them? You get news on the Web and "old" information in the newspapers.
It seems the thing to do now is redesign the core elements of our logic and our business models.
The newsstand circulation models are old and getting older. The cost of doing business is high and getting higher. Many magazines will survive in print, but the success rate is low and getting lower.
My hope is that through this moment of great attrition emerges a healthy process for the industry, and that when we reach the next stable economic plateau we are stronger, more vibrant and focused intelligently on the getting the job done with greater efficiency and restraint than we do today.