The Doctor is in...the Magazine Business

According to the pundits, the magazine industry has been in critical condition…supposedly. So why did Dr. Oz -- whose good sense and business savvy few would doubt -- announce recently that he is launching a new lifestyle magazine with Hearst?
Every report of the demise of magazines inevitably cites a decline in newsstand sales, a metric which remains the most quoted industry barometer, despite the fact that it’s not an accurate reflection of consumer demand. Today, newsstand sales account for less than 10% of total paid circulation. Decreases in that area are largely the byproduct of secular brick-and-mortar retail trends, as well as a shift in consumer preference in where and how they purchase their magazines.

Consumer demand for magazine media -- across all platforms -- isn’t just holding steady, it’s growing. The audience in print and on tablets is up 2% (GfK MRI S’ 2013 v. S’ 2012). The readership for print rose 2% this spring, and tablet audiences alone grew 72.9% since last year. There are nearly 312 million print magazines in circulation in the U.S., where the total population is just under 314 million. So in print copies alone, magazines have the country covered.
Now some might argue that these numbers reflect the tastes of an aging readership. Wrong. Magazines are widely popular across age groups, with 91% of adults 18 and over reading them. 96% of 18- to 24-year olds read print magazines and, on average, adults under 25 read more print and digital magazines per month than adults of all ages. Contrast this to yet another year of falling ratings for television, where, as reported by Screen Rant, 65% of new network shows are typically canceled within the first season.
Surely Dr. Oz and Hearst Magazines know these numbers well -- as do the publishers of well over 200 magazine titles that launched in 2012. (A 7% increase over 2011, according to MediaFinder.) Despite all of the attention paid to magazine closures, it’s worth noting that more than twice as many magazines were launched last year than folded.
It might be trendy to argue that digital is the final nail in the magazine industry’s coffin, but it’s also dead wrong. If any medium is well positioned to thrive across platforms, devices and formats, it’s this one. Core to our DNA are brands that are both trusted and enduring. Magazines, unlike other media, have brand equity that is built from a unique convergence of content and community around the specific interests and passions of consumers.

The ability to extend our brands through multiple platforms -- print, mobile, Web, tablet and even experiential -- and through an increasingly wide range of formats -- print, photos and video -- is not just exciting for those of us in the industry, but more importantly, to the hundreds of millions of consumers who love magazines. Readers are hungry to extend and deepen their relationship with magazine brands, and publishers have found that reader engagement levels on tablets are equal to or better than print for both content and ads.
If you take into account that Hearst and so many others continue to launch new magazines, and the indisputable facts pointing to the industry’s vitality, it’s clear that it’s a good time to be in the magazine business. Dr. Oz clearly thinks so, and who would doubt his diagnosis?



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