Where Have All the Pages Gone?

27Jul07

I was quite sad when I read the Times last week and learned that two magazines, both written with an interesting perspective on modern culture and business are in danger of ending. Jane, the women’s magazine written that tried to introduce a bit of edge and reality to the genre, will be closing after 10 years of operation; and Business 2.0, a timely magazine for a business world now so affected by rapid innovation in media and technology, will likely publish its last issue this September after only 7 years.

It comes as no surprise that the print publishing industry is in danger because of lagging ad revenue; Madison Ave has shifted some of its ad budgets once reserved for print to online media. Because of a decline in ad revenue, content and production is scaled back in order to make up for a lack of income. In the end, this results in rather waifish monthly editions on our newsstands.

I first became hooked on reading magazines and print media when I was 12 and discovered Vogue. Having occasionally read my share of tween magazines, I was immediately impressed by Vogue’s colossal 500 page editions filled with smart editorials on couture culture. I was happy to pay $4 of my allowance; in fact, I thought it was quite a steal for all of the rich entertainment, commentary and insight I knew I would be getting in return. Today, I go to the newsstand and flip through my favorite magazines considering which to buy and notice that this 500 page edition model is a thing of the past; today magazines are about 100-200 pages at most with at least 50 pages of ads. I am asked to pay the same price for half the content. As a consumer, this no longer makes sense and I often forgo forking over my hard-earned money for, essentially, a book of ads; especially when I can find the same kind of content served up in blogs and other online media.

So now, magazines are not only losing advertisers, they are losing readers because of a substantial decrease in rich editorial content. No wonder there’s a rapid decline of subscriptions and paying readers. Where’s the value proposition? Less content for the same price?

Clearly the old print model has to be improved. The solution will not come from simply luring in new advertisers. The solution will come when print magazines find some way to add new value and more content back into publications. Keep the consumer satisfied and circulation will improve and advertisers will come back. In this niche media age, advertisers could use a resurgence of broadcast media with large reach and publishers need the revenue. Some of the media now in danger of ending or being lost to buyouts seem to be the players best equip to reinvent the publishing wheel. It is easy to forget that the content publishers we now call “traditional media” were once the disrupters, the innovators. I look forward to the resurgence of the nimble, forward-thinking entrepreneurial spirit and rich content that led to their initial rise on newsstands and top of mind position with loyal consumers.

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