How Magazines Can Survive Ad And Subs Revenue Cuts By Half

Alas, The Guardian is spot on today. Magazines are not all doomed -- although many are at least due to be online only now that circulations have been cut by half since 2010 -- and so have advertising revenues, according to a GroupM estimate.

This means that not only has the market for buying magazines been halved, but there is also roughly a GBP250m shortfall that is not being ploughed in the market this year. Two income streams -- and both of them have halved since 2010.

The long list of those who were once at the top of their game but are now online only not only now includes NME, but previous victims of a halving market, such as FHM, Loaded and Nuts. For anyone who grew up reading these titles, it is very difficult to think that they are no longer printed.

The NME move was reportedly a decision already made before Epiris bought the magazine as part of its purchase of Time Inc's UK portfolio for GBP130m last month. When you think of some of the very famous magazines the private equity firm got for their money, it makes you realise quite how much the market has slipped. There is the likes of Marie Claire, Horse and Hound, Woman's Own and Country Life, to name just a few of the most famous magazines in the country.

The interesting part of The Guardian feature picks up on conversations that I have had with quite a few savvy people in media. Namely at the top, there is likely to be a whittling away until just one or maybe two magazines remain in print. The problem is, the big sellers will still largely be general, and so it is hard to pin down who's reading them beyond a broad demographic or shared interest.

However, there is a lot more traction in highly targeted publications that will always have a print fan base because buying the magazine is a part of pursuing that hobby or interest -- be it horse riding, sailing, photography or camping.

The part that I have always believe in, which comes out in this Guardian article, is that you still ultimately need more, as a publisher. You need to use the name of your well-known titles and bring them to life beyond the printed page and blog.

Hearst is the one to watch here with its Good Housekeeping reviews accreditation service and Men's Health branding of gym equipment. There also the more obvious events and conferences that can breathe life in to a magazine and its publisher also.

It's always hard for any journalist who started out in print, as we all did before digital, to talk about the demise of the medium without making it look vitriolic. Nothing could be further from the truth but we have to face facts. Digital has halved each of the two revenue streams magazines live or die by.

There is no room for nostalgia here and anyone who starts reading NME this week onwards is unlikely to rue the day it was available in print. Online-only magazines is a fact of life and, let's face it, a decade or so ago if a magazine wasn't making it in print, it just closed. Online can actually be seen as a lifeline for many titles.

The fact remains, however. Targeted -- and hopefully, differentiated -- audiences are the key to survival for all bar the very biggest and last-surviving generalist titles. And imagination is needed to plan events and use brand names beyond publishing to generate new revenue streams. There is still a future for magazine, only it's going to look a little different.

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