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Magazines No Longer the ‘Center of the Universe’

Top execs debate big ideas and opportunities facing publishing in 2010.



By Jason Fell
10/30/2009

Publisher Survival, especially for those supported mainly by print advertising, was the topic of debate, and some contention, during a Folio: Show Virtual panel discussion last month called “Big Ideas and New Opportunities for 2010 and Beyond.”

“The magazine business, particularly if you’re dominated by print advertising, is going to continue to be no-growth to a declining business—probably forever,” said panelist David Nussbaum, CEO of enthusiast magazine and book publisher F+W Media. Other panelists included Mann Media CEO Bernie Mann; Eric Biener, Nielsen Business Media’s vice president of business development; and Daniel McCarthy, chairman and CEO of Network Communications, Inc.

While some print magazines will survive, publishers “can’t bank on them being the driver” of their business, Nussbaum argued. At F+W, magazine publishing depends largely on subscription and newsstand revenues. “Advertising, which we love and we want, will be gravy on top of that,” he said.

Mann, who publishes North Carolina’s Our State, countered that losses in print don’t pertain to the entire industry. “Trust is very important and is hard to find. How many people trust television today? How many people trust their daily newspapers,” he said. “If you can build trust in magazines, you have some long, long legs.”

Growing Competition

With bloggers and other online publishers are continuing to pop up and take market share, traditional magazine publishers in the future won’t hold sole ownership of the markets they serve, the panelists largely agreed. Publishers now should focus more on core products, the panelists said, and on being “active participants” in the markets they serve.

“I don’t think we’re ever going back to the day when we were the center of the universe. We have to recognize that,” Nussbaum said. “We now are part of the overall community. If we can grasp that role then we can begin to get back to levels of profitability.”

The Paid Content Debate

And, of course, what’s a panel discussion today without talk about charging for content online? “Allowing people to parse out the pieces of content they find valuable, and to make nickels on those pieces on an economy of scale is one of the future models we are looking at for our businesses,” Biener said. “I think micropayments are going to play successfully in the future of media business, specifically content.”

By Jason Fell
10/30/2009







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