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.

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