A few weeks ago, I wrote a short opinion piece about the merger of the News Media Alliance and the MPA, the former Magazine Publishers of America since renamed MPA - The Association of Magazine Media.
My point was to reflect on the progression of the magazine industry from the days when printed brands were a remarkable cultural force. For many audiences, the day a new magazine arrived was something to be anticipated and welcomed. In some cases you even scheduled your day around it.
In those days, the industry’s most powerful editors and executives possessed an enviable stature. They were celebrities in their own right. Budgets were flush, expense accounts were extravagant. The association conferences were as much self-affirming celebrations as for networking and education.
That’s all changed. It’s indisputable that the MPA adapted—and downsized. But so did 100% of the organizations that served the magazine industry. Whole swaths of suppliers disappeared, and those that remain are frequently ghosts of their former selves. I count my own former brands, including Folio: and Min, among the group of impacted businesses.
But things aren’t bleak, and that wasn’t really my point in the first place.
Some magazine brands, now multimedia, retain great power. There’s plenty of innovation all around the business. But again, it was once called the “magazine industry.” Even the name that MPA adopted some years back is an attempt to zero in on a new definition.
Last week the magazine-media association completed its merger with the News Media Alliance, the association of more than 2,000 newspaper brands. The new organization will be called the News/Media Alliance—the subtle addition of a forward slash serves as the only modification in the name.
(The deal is supposed to close offiically this summer, but the memberships of both organizations have approved the merger.)
I get the case to be made for such a combined association. It will focus on “building a powerful future for quality journalism,” a press release stated. “News publishers and magazines are creators of great original journalism in the media landscape,” the release continued. “While the two industries have different pasts, they share a common future. The two organizations have overlapping missions and advocate on many of the same issues.”
Together, the release noted, the organizations represent companies that produce $45 billion in annual revenue.
But this fact must also be acknowledged: This new association, with more than 2,500 brands, has as its main competitors Google parent Alphabet, Apple, Amazon and Meta. Those tech companies all leverage the news that this association creates and/or reap advertising dollars that might have flowed to the association’s members.
The first three of those tech giants blew away that $45 billion. By THEMSELVES. In the most recent QUARTER. Meta came close to equaling the number.
From my perspective, the most important and newsworthy initiative that the News/Media Alliance is pursuing is the Journalism Competition & Preservation Act, which would allow news publishers to collectively negotiate with the tech platforms for fair compensation for use of their content. When I wrote about this back in 2018, the MPA told me the it was disinclined to collaborate on the initiative with the NMA.
So I wonder if the magazine-media members of the new association are aligned with the cause of the JCPA. I also wonder how much business-model overlap periodical media really has with newspapers. Will NMA’s news-focused brands like the Ephrata Review, the Pasco Shopper, the Wallowa County Chieftan—or even the Los Angeles Times and Gatehouse Media—really find common cause with Reader’s Digest, Vogue, Us Weekly, The New Yorker and Garden & Gun?
That remains to be seen. Because while the business models seem similar in the general sense—they rely on advertising and audience revenue—the economics, the processes, and the priorities are very different.
In any event, the Current News Media Alliance CEO, David Chavern, will serve as CEO of the combined entity, while MPA CEO Rita Cohen will stay on in an advisory role that hasn’t been spelled out.
“We are extremely excited to bring our two organizations together and leverage our collective voice to achieve our shared vision of a bright and thriving future for high-quality journalism and content,” said Chavern. “The needs of the two industries are closely aligned, and this union will allow us to deliver higher value for a broader number of publishers and content creators.”