Print magazine startups: Hope springs eternal.

print publicationsI’ve blogged before about the number of print magazine launches versus closures in the age of the Internet.

Now the latest report from media database clearinghouse Oxbridge Communications shows that when it comes to this most traditional form of media … hope springs eternal.

In fact, Oxbridge is reporting that in the first half of this year, new magazine start-ups outstripped those that ceased publication – and by a substantial margin.

The Oxbridge database, which includes U.S. and Canadian publications, shows that 93 magazines were launched in the first half of 2014, versus just 30 that were shuttered.

True, this represents a lower number of start-ups than is the historical average … but it’s also a lower number of closures.

What specialty audiences are being targeted by these new pubs?

In the continuation of an existing trend, there’s growth in new “regional interest” magazines such as 12th & Broad (aimed at the creative community in the Nashville metro area) and San Francisco Cottages & Gardens.

Food and drink is another category of growing interest, with publications like Barbecue America and Craft Beer & Brewing hitting the streets for the first time.

And why not?  Despite ever-changing consumer tastes and interests, all of us continue to share at least one fundamental trait:  We eat!

But on a cautionary note, the smaller list of magazine closures do include two vaunted “historic” titles:  Jet (Johnson Publishing) and Ladies’ Home Journal (Meredith).

These closures underscore the point that the magazine industry shakeup continues – and who knows what other famous titles might cease publication during the second half of the year.

As for the biggest reason behind the magazine closures … isn’t it obvious?  It’s decreased advertising revenue.

Continuing a trend that’s been happening for the better part of a decade now, Publishers Information Bureau reports that total magazine ad pages declined another 4% in the First Quarter of 2014 as compared to the same quarter of last year.

For the record, that’s 28,567 ad pages for all U.S. and Canadian publications.

While that figure may seem like a healthy total, it’s not enough to sustain the total number of publications out there.

The harsh reality is that print journalism remains dramatically more expensive than digital production.  Unless a magazine can obtain enough subscribers to justify its ad rates, the only other way it can survive is to cover its costs via a “no-advertising” business model.

The vast majority of subscribers will never pay the full cost to produce a print publication.  And with more free information resources than ever available to them online, many people aren’t particularly inclined to commit to even a subsidized subscription rate.

Indeed, the wealth of free information means it’s more difficult these days even to get qualified business readers to subscribe to free B-to-B pubs that target their own industry or markets.

What changing dynamics would portend a shift in the downward trajectory?  It would be nice to anticipate a bottoming-out followed by a turnaround.

Unfortunately, if the past five years have demonstrated anything, it’s that there may be no “natural bottom” when it comes to diminishing advertising revenues in the print magazine business.

Move Over, Howard Stern: Now Google’s the “King of All Media”

Google and Print Advertising Revenue Trends, 2004-2012It’s official. With nearly $21 billion in ad revenue generated during the first half of 2012, Google now attracts more advertising business than all U.S. print media combined.

That is correct:  German-based statistics portal Statista reports that Google garnered ~$20.8 billion in total ad revenues over the period, while all U.S. newspapers and magazines took in only about $19.2 billion.

Never mind that the comparison isn’t completely apples-to-apples … in that print revenues are for the United States only, while Google generates ad revenues worldwide. Still, it’s a dramatic milestone, and it says a lot about the fortunes (and future) of print versus online advertising.

Statista has helpfully published trend charts that show how quickly the ad picture has changed (see above). Only a few years ago, print advertising dominated the scene, but the trajectories of it and Google have been on opposite paths ever since.

It was inevitable that the lines would eventually cross, but how many could have foreseen it happening as early as 2012?

As if on cue, Advance Publications, a company that owns a number of venerable newspapers in New Orleans, Cleveland and elsewhere, has just announced that it is likely to cut the publication frequency of the Plain Dealer newspaper from its current seven days a week.

If Advance follows through on its intentions, it will join the New Orleans Times Picayune as a daily newspaper that’s no longer a daily.

The publisher’s letter to Plain Dealer readers described the newspaper’s future in lofty terms, noting that changes were coming as the paper seeks to “embrace dynamic shifts in the way information is consumed.”  And other such language.

It also noted that the pending changes are “not about cost-cutting.” But who believes that?

And in fact, the publisher’s letter states also that “if we maintain the status quo, we risk doing what everyone – our employees, advertisers and the community – wants to avoid: disappearing.”

If people don’t see a correlation between the Statista data and what the Plain Dealer has in store for its readers … they’re living on another planet. 

Newspaper Ad Revenues Plummet to a 60-year Inflation-adjusted Low

Newspaper advertising revenues decline to 1950 levels in inflation-adjusted dollars.Newspaper ad revenues have now collapsed to a level not seen since the 1950s in inflation-adjusted dollars. 

That’s the sobering conclusion from the Newspaper Association of America’s release of the most recent advertising revenue figures for the U.S. industry.

With these dismal statistics, the newspaper industry seems sure to contract even further, while getting precious little boost from their online advertising activities.

Clearly, when it comes to media, it’s “out with the old” and “in with the new” …

Magazine advertising finally sees an uptick … sort of.

Print Magazines

An uptick in print magazine advertising -- however modest -- appears to be occurring.

Could it be that print magazines are finally on the positive side of the “U” in their recovery? The most recent stats on print advertising activities suggest that this may be so – if only slightly.

In statistics released this past week by Publishers Information Bureau, this data aggregator found that across all of the magazines tracked by the bureau, print advertising rose ~2.5% during the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same period last year. While not large, it is a gain, which is better news than most publications have had in quite a while.

PIB charted advertising growth in seven of the twelve advertiser categories it tracks, with the following segments showing increases year-over-year:

 Apparel and accessories
 Automotive
 Cosmetics and toiletries
 Drugs and remedies
 Financial, insurance and real estate
 Media and advertising
 Technology

As for the other categories, advertising was roughly even in women’s fashion and beauty magazines, while advertising categories that continued to decline were retail, food, home furnishings, and travel.

More specifically, how did some of America’s largest and most famous magazine brands fare? The answer is: “It depends.”

BusinessWeek: +49%

Elle: +15%
Vogue: +11%
Glamour: +6%
The Economist: +4%
The New Yorker: +4%
Time: +3%

 InStyle: -4%
Cosmopolitan: -9%
Harper’s Bazaar: -11%

Newsweek: -31%

There are explanations behind the outliers’ advertising performance. BusinessWeek has undergone an extensive redesign since its purchase by Bloomberg, and major resources have been poured into the publication to raise its profile and editorial muscle.

At the other end of the scale, Newsweek has struggled in the wake of its purchase by nonagenarian Sidney Harman, the retired chairman of Harman International Industries (Harman/Kardon) and husband of Jane Harman, executive director of Wilson International Center for Scholars and an ex-congressperson from California. Bringing Tina Brown onboard as “celebrity editor” at Newsweek hasn’t paid big dividends yet – at least in terms of advertisers returning to the magazine.

Does the uptick in advertising mean that print magazines are out of the woods yet? Hardly. Let’s not forget that the improved advertising figures are coming off of 2010’s low base levels that are nothing short of ugly. Print advertising is slowly emerging from the worst business environment faced by magazines since the Great Depression, after all.

But at least the direction is now “up” …

Where are Newspapers Now?

Newspaper ad revenues continue in the doldrums.John Barlow of Barlow Research Associates, Inc. reminds me that it’s been awhile since I blogged about the dire straits of America’s newspaper industry. The twin whammies of a major economic recession along with the rapidly changing ways Americans are getting their news have hammered advertising revenues and profits, leading to organizational restructuring, bankruptcies, and more.

But with the recession bottoming out (hopefully?), there was hope that the decline in newspaper ad revenues might be arrested as well.

Well, the latest industry survey doesn’t provide much cause for celebration. A poll of ~2,700 small and mid-size businesses conducted this summer by Portland, OR-based market research firm ITZBelden and the American Press Institute finds that ~23% of these businesses plan to cut back on newspaper advertising this year.

The kicker is that these revenues are being spent, but they’re being put to use in other advertising media.

The ITZBelden survey found that a similar ~23% of companies plan to up their 2010 digital ad spending anywhere from 10% to 30%. This compares to only about 10% planning to increase their print advertising by similar proportions.

Moreover, the survey findings reveal that small and mid-size U.S. businesses have moved into digital marketing in a significant way. Not only do more than 80% of them maintain web sites, they’re active in other areas, including:

 ~45% maintain a Facebook or MySpace page
 ~23% are engaged in online couponing
 ~13% are involved with Craigslist
 ~10% are listed on Yelp! or similar user-review sites

One area which is still just a relative blip on the screen is mobile advertising, in that fewer than 4% of the respondents reported activities in that advertising category.

Where are these advertisers planning to put their promotional funds going forward? While newspapers should continue to represent around one quarter of the expenditures, various digital media expenditures will account for ~13% of the activity, making this more important than direct mail, TV and Yellow Pages advertising.

There was one bright spot for newspapers in the survey, however. Respondents expressed a mixture of confusion and bewilderment about the constantly evolving array of digital marketing communications options opening up … and they’re looking for support from media experts to guide their plans and activities.

And where do they see this expert advice coming from? Newspaper ad reps.

Perhaps the Yellow Book’s “Beyond Yellow” small business advertising campaign – you know, the one that touts not only the Yellow Pages advertising but also web development, online advertising, search marketing and mobile advertising – is onto something.

“Mag Drag 2009”: Year-End Update

Earlier this year, I reported on the sorry state of print magazine publishing as illustrated by the spate of closures reported up to that time.

Now that we’re wrapping up 2009, we can see the full scope of the damage. MediaFinder has tallied up more than 370 magazine titles that have folded over the course of the year. And the number is closer to 450 if you also include magazines that ceased to publish in print form and went to an all-digital format.

Interestingly, magazine closure stats for 2009 were actually a bit lower than in 2008 and 2007. But this year saw the demise of some pretty important titles. Among the more noteworthy casualties were:

 Country Home
 Editor & Publisher
 Gourmet Magazine
 Hallmark Magazine
 Modern Bride
 Nickelodeon
 Portfolio
 Teen
 The Advocate
 Vibe

As we move into 2010, will these trends continue, or will magazine closures level off? It’s too soon to say, but some prognosticators are forecasting a slight uptick in print magazine advertising revenues, so perhaps the worst is behind us.

But coming off of a disastrous 18-month period when print advertising revenues have tanked 25%, 30% or more, it’s hard to see how some magazines can continue to survive at the new, depressed revenue levels which will likely be a fact of life going forward.

And what about newspapers? For them, 2009 was even more depressing, with a record number of bankruptcies filed including the companies that own the Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Sun-Times, Minneapolis Star/Tribune and a number of other iconic newspaper brands. At the end of the year, though, some firms had managed to resolve their bankruptcy proceedings thanks to cash infusions, labor concessions, or selling out to new owners.

Condé-Nast Gets Real – and Reality Bites

Conde-Nast logoThis week, magazine publisher Condé-Nast announced the closure of four magazines, including two bridal publications plus the prestigious and well-known Gourmet Magazine title.

It’s an indignity for a publishing firm that has fallen pretty far pretty fast. For years, the company seemed by-and-large unaffected by the winds of change in the publishing industry. Even as other firms were belt-tightening and divesting themselves of low-performing magazine titles, the storied “in-your-face” Condé-Nast business style – replete with jet-setting executives and seemingly endless clothing and expense accounts – appeared to remain intact.

It didn’t hurt that parent company, Advance Publications, also owns cable TV properties that could help prop up the print publication segment of the business – at least for a time.

But with plunging ad page revenues from its luxury goods advertisers on the order of 30%+ throughout 2009, it was only a matter of time before the day of reckoning would arrive. And the sense of impending doom was only heightened when McKinsey & Co. consultants started roaming the halls, poking around the company’s headquarters like a nosy relative, asking all sorts of questions and taking notes.

And now, a few short months later, we have this announcement.

Accompanying the news of magazine closures and personnel layoffs, Condé-Nast reported that it is shifting its priorities to digital properties even while focusing on a fewer number of “core” magazine titles.

Will it be enough? One unnamed company executive was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying, “We’re going to make a go of everything else.” But I think that’s doubtful. McKinsey has recommended that nearly all of the remaining publications cut their budgets by upwards of 25%. Whether or not that happens – or whether it will be enough to save the remaining titles – is something we’ll be able to judge pretty quickly.

UPDATE (11/7/09)The New York Post is reporting that Condé-Nast has now hired Michael Sheehan, the famous crisis manager and media coach, to help the company with PR. Sheehan has coached presidential candidates from Clinton to Obama, as well as handling AIG Insurance’s PR during its financial meltdown in late 2008. Reportedly, Gina Sanders, publisher of Lucky magazine, prodded top brass to bring Sheehan in, citing deep morale problems at the company. Considering the dramatic events at the publishing house over the past year, this news is not at all surprising.

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