The recent string of foldings in the niche music magazine arena (Harp, No Depression, Mass Appeal et al) begs the question: How much space exists in the marketplace for these titles? The answer, as it is in any magazine category, is not clear cut and needs to be examined on a case-by-case basis.
Niche titles that have passionate and loyal readerships can absolutely thrive if they are able to leverage their strengths (i.e. targeted, influential readers, specific editorial focus) to build multiplatform, integrated deals with brands, where print advertising is merely the point of entry, even an afterthought in some cases. If publishers continue to strictly chase ad pages, it would seem logical in today’s environment that they would face a certain death. They also must exploit the freedom and flexibility they possess as independent publishers to aggressively innovate and create a broader brand experience, thus providing a more dimensional opportunity for the advertiser and surrounding experience for the consumers they speak to.
For what it’s worth, mainstream music titles are in no way immune to these changes, only they would, in theory at least, seem to have deeper pockets in order to last a bit longer in the face of a rough economy and downturn in print spending. However, if they continue follow the traditional belief that a magazine is built by increasing circulation (and thus rate bases) they will find themselves in a very similar situation.
In order to survive, niche magazines, just like the bigger publishing companies, must build a multi-dimensional brand in order to create new revenue streams. A conscious decision was made when the Fader launched in 1998 to let the magazine grow organically while winning a loyal readership by covering artists based on the merit of their music and not how many records (thus newsstand copies) they would sell. This ultimately enabled us to build a credible and trusted brand that now lives in many different spaces such as print, online, events, podcasts, television, film and more to come.