Get with it, Gutenberg.
In order to print their glossy editions on paper, magazines need to sell ads. But nowadays, that can be problematic.
“Many advertisers want to be on mobile, they want to be on television,” says Andrea Marder-Kick, vice president of global planning and buying at Media Associates, an ad agency focused on ad placement. “Very few advertisers are walking through the door, or ringing us on the phone, saying they want to be in print. Print is perceived as being very archaic.”
But try telling the winners of the “Hottest Magazine Launches of the Year” awards that they’re about to go extinct.
“We’ve been sort of like the Kenny on South Park for like the past quarter-century. Every disruption — you know, ‘they killed Kenny again,'” says Jim Impoco, Newsweek’s editor-in-chief, as he accepted the magazine’s award for best re-launch at the event breakfast in New York.
Magazines, it seems, are far from fossilized. They’re still alive and kicking, and then some.
More than 800 new magazines launched over the past 12 months says Samir Husni, AKA, “Mr. Magazine,” director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi. But, he admits the number includes a lot of annuals and book-a-zines like “The Best of Fine Gardening: Tomatoes” or Hobby Farm’s “Bacon.”
“The days when you had TV Guides selling 18 million copies every week, those days are gone,” he says.
Magazines aren’t dead, they’re just different, explains Husni. New technology allows for smaller runs and more specialized titles like “Eye-lash,” for lash specialists, estheticians and makeup artists; “Vapor Voice,” for those in the vape industry; and “Skinny News,” which is about … being skinny.
“There is a magazine for everything you can imagine, you can dream about or you can even have nightmares about,” he says. “The joke I tell my students: You name a part of the human body, and there’s at least one or two magazines devoted to it.”
Sid Holt, chief executive of the American Society of Magazine Editors, says it is a challenging time for magazines. While magazine audiences are growing online and on other digital platforms, the loss of advertising dollars that were once a mainstay of print has been hard to make up.
“Those digital dimes haven’t replaced those print dollars yet,” he says. But at the same time, he notes, magazines are adapting. In order for a magazine now to be successful it has to carry its shared passion between reader and publisher — be it guinea pigs or eyelashes — across platforms.
“We no longer think of a magazine as this print thing; this print artifact. Although, obviously the print artifact is central,” he says.
Print does have prominence for certain advertisers, says Marder-Kick. For those trying to hawk luxury goods or beauty products to seniors — a group notoriously tricky to track down via new technology — magazines play a key role. After all, it’s very hard to smell a sample fragrance strip through the screen of your iPhone.
“Print is an astonishing technology. And to begin with, it’s portable, it’s great to look at,” says Holt. “It was a great technology when Gutenberg invented it and it’s a great technology today.”
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