It’s going to be a great year in magazine publishing. Sure, there are challenges. There’s some talk of a recession. Within the industry, postal rates are increasing, money is flowing online, newsstand sales are flat and the process is broken and most big-circulation magazines are on a downward trajectory.
But speaking as someone who worked through the 1991 recession, through the false scare of the Asian financial crisis in 1998 and through the devastating downturn of 2001-2003, my perception of the business is that it seems strong. Bank on these things happening next year:
- Magazine publishing won’t be how some sectors describe their businesses anymore. Things are merging so fast in areas like the technology-publishing space that the traditional distinctions between print and online are becoming less meaningful. We’ve written extensively about the concept of the tipping point, where e-revenue outpaces print revenue, and in tech it’s happening now. Look for that to spread into other markets, including teen publishing. And don’t forget events. In this issue, in fact, we have an interesting report that concludes that the magazine brand is NOT necessary for successful events for companies that have both a magazine and an event in the same market.
- Ad spending will continue to flow into e-media. Anecdotally, I hear all the time how dollars are flowing into e-media so fast that a ‘buy-first-and-ask-questions-later’ mentality is emerging.
- Mergers and acquisitions will continue. This is one of the leading indicators of magazine-industry health, and there remains a sense that a) plenty of attractive properties are out there, and b) plenty of buyers;especially private-equity buyers;are also there, ready to pay a premium.
- City and regionals will stay hot. Right now this seems like an unstoppable class of magazine.
- B-to-b weeklies will decline and begin to fold. Write this down. The economics make no sense. The news mission is completely undermined by blogs and newsletters, and a weekly frequency is not necessary to accomplish an analytic mission.
- Mass-consumer magazines will continue their decline. From Reader’s Digest to TV Guide and more, information-consumption habits simply don’t support mass-circ magazines anymore.
- Online-only publishers will proliferate. They’re definitely out there now, many of them operating below the radar, known only to their print-centric, in-market competition. No association fully serves them, and no one tracks them. It’s too compelling a business model to ignore.