The Economist puffs into the print-is-dead smoke-screen with a story noting that consumer magazines ‘have problems.’ And you’ll never guess the culprit: The Internet. Apparently people are ‘spending more time’ there and an ‘even greater share of advertising spending’ is moving online. How much? We don’t know, the writer doesn’t provide any metrics.
Worse: ‘Magazine units are mostly a drag on growth for their parents.’ How much of a drag? Still don’t know. But apparently they’re a drag on at least two parents-maybe, and possibly more-because Time Warner is fending off rumors of a Time Inc. divestment and ‘people in the industry’ are saying it may also sell IPC Media, its British subsidiary, and that ‘publishers reckon’ Bertlesmann may sell Gruner + Jahr next year.
That the divisions might be sold someday (isn’t everything basically for sale anyway?) and they may indeed be a drag on the bottom line is all relative, and certainly not a reflection of the overall market. Time Warner and Bertlesmann are massive media conglomerates with unique financial pressures and don’t represent the consumer magazine industry as a whole. Neither does Emap, which the writer determines might not sell because it’s possible no one will pay good prices, which will only add to the industry’s ‘gloom.’
But then, and I never thought I’d ever write this in a sentence, here the writer is hoisted on his or her petard, as they say. If Time Inc. is ever sold, buyers will line up around the block, and even Emap’s magazine division is reportedly seeing interest from a healthy mix of private equity and strategic buyers. Why? Because in the right context magazines are still an excellent business to be in.