Where Are The Magazines Going?

  |   jim's digital lab

After spending my early career in the print publishing world before shifting to digital in the 1990’s, I admit there is still some “ink in my veins” that may never go away. So, I always feel a little saddened when a long-standing publication recognizes the inevitable…shutting down the print magazine and shifting everything to digital (web, mobile web, email marketing, smartphone apps, etc.).
SmartMoney is owned by Dow Jones and has a circulation rate base of 800,000 — this combines its subscriber base with some level of newssstand sales. Today, Dow Jones Publishing announced it is shuttering the magazine in September and will go all-digital after that. The print and digital revenue models are very different (for now…digital revenues are significantly lower than print revenue models on a CPM basis), and that means that operating costs must decline at a very rapid rate. Of course, with an all-digital operation you don’t have to buy paper, you don’t have to hire a magazine printer, you don’t have to sell magazines on the newsstand (which is a big money-losing proposition anyway…it’s only a “rate base” prop) and you don’t have to pay the US Postal Service to deliver subscriber copies.
Inside the publishing operations, the issues are huge. Editors no longer work in 30 day content cycles for a monthly magazine, but generally operate on 24-hour content cycles. That takes a different breed of editorial cat. Instead of print magazine layout and design, you have straight-to-digital designers. Instead of printing your magazine and all of the production processes necessary on the back-end (think paper, ink, mailing labels and more), you have to pour content into templatized/formatted digital pages through a production-oriented content management system. Some HTML skills are necessary to do that. And, re-purposing digital content is so much easier through digital syndication across affiliated digital platforms and services. Getting “subscribers” (site visitors) now requires SEO, keyword strategies, social layering and multi-platform distribution…not nickel pricing on magazine subscription renewals and buck slips dropped into magazine subscription marketing packages with those famous words: “Before You Say No.”
Media transitions of this magnitude suggest to us that while print magazines are not dead (yet), placing stories in relevant locations is still important to our clients in the golf industry. But, it also strongly reinforces one of the really important things that Dave, Mike and our Account Team do every day…they work diligently to identify digital and social media sites, writers, bloggers and other key influencers who have fled the world of print to focus exclusively on digital media platforms.
While golfers everywhere still read magazines, they are rapidly shifting their readership habits to digital. Keeping up isn’t always easy because of the trajectory and velocity of these changes, but Communication Links remains focused on helping our clients “tell a story.” The medium of choice for conveying the message is clearly morphing…but, we’re reaching out and exploring every avenue to ensure that our clients succeed.