City & Regional Magazines Rely On Print Advertising

According to the FOLIO:'s annual survey of city and regional magazine publishers, print may be dying, but it's still lively enough to carry the city and regional magazine industry. Local titles rely on print for as much as 93% of their annual revenue. Companies aren't shying away from it either; more print products are scheduled to launch in 2014 than at any point in the last 5 years.

Along with the rest of the publishing industry, print peaked in the mid-2000s for city and regional magazines, notes the report. It accounted for up to 95.9% of overall revenue in 2005, but it hasn't dipped far from that point. While custom publishing contracts have taken the place of a few ad dollars, the print-to-non-print revenue ratio is just a few points off where it was 10 years ago. The numbers are almost exactly what they were in 2008. (about 94%)

A few publishers are predicting a shift away from print and toward alternative revenue streams, digital media and events chief among them, in 2015. And they seem to hold long-term promise.

Launch rates for non-print products are actually down this year, but companies are getting better at squeezing revenue out of the ones they have already. More than 85% of respondents say their non-print products will bring in at least some money this year, says the report, a number that's steadily risen since 2010.

Print still pays the bills for city and regional publishers. Respondents say more than three-quarters of their revenue still comes from print advertising, and overall, it's stable. That 77.1% chunk is less than a percenage point away from the 5-year average.

There's a big gap between magazines that generate more than $5 million in revenue and their smaller counterparts, says the report. Large brands have been able to develop other streams of income, relying on ad pages for just 65% of their earnings in 2013, down a full 5% from where they were in 2011.

Smaller publishers have had a tougher time diversifying. They're still counting on print ad sales for more than 80% of their revenue. That figure has remained essentially unchanged over the last 4 years.

Publishers Source Of Revenue


% in 2013

% in 2014

Print advertising



Paid subscriptions



Custom publishing



Digital media












Source: Folio, September 2014

The revenue mix could change soon. Smaller magazines, in particular, expect print ad revenue to make up a slightly smaller percentage of their overall earnings this year, projecting a 3-percent decrease. The amount isn't huge, but it's an important trend to watch for, observes the report.

Paid subscriptions, digital media and events are expected to grow in its place, with respondents from small publishers forecasting year-over-year increases of at least 15% for each segment.

Not surprisingly, says the report, large publications are also looking to digital media for growth. Respondents project revenue from digital platforms will jump 28% in 2014, bringing the overall slice of revenue to almost 9% of total earnings.

Evidence suggests that the new digital business could be coming from better monetization strategies rather than the launch of more products. In fact, fewer digital products will likely enter the market this year than in any of the previous 5 years. The 59% of companies planning to stand pat with their current non-print portfolio is actually rising.

Concluding, the report says that more companies are expecting to generate revenue from non-print products than ever before. Nearly 70% of respondents say they'll generate at least some money from their non-print efforts, up from less than 60% in 2010.

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