Trying to Make Sense of Magazine Closings
MPA: Economics, not readers, are behind it all.
The MPA wants to make a few things clear about the unfortunate string of magazine closures we’ve been experiencing.
It’s the economy, stupid. That’s not what they said, exactly, but they’d like to remind everyone that the readers are still there—it’s the advertisers that are jumping ship. A data sheet posted on MPA’s site in early August attempts to point out that consumer interest, via circ levels, is maintaining while advertising declines correspond with shutdowns.
Also, last year wasn’t all that bad compared to other years. In fact, we didn’t even come close to 2000-2001 levels.
The MPA cites closure metrics from Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory. Apparently, there were 54 magazines closed in 2008, which is 11 less than 2007 and, interestingly, 50 less than 2006, which was the peak for mag closings after 2001.
None of this makes recent numbers any more tolerable, really. Closings and the subsequent job loss in any situation are horrible. But the MPA is attempting to take a big-picture view and attach the numbers to the economy rather than a specific loss of consumer interest, which would be really bad.
PIB revenue declines, for example, occurred only in recession years. ABC average circ dropped during these same periods, but by far lower percentages. Therefore, concludes MPA, advertising is the "dominant factor in magazine closings."
Yet looking at the Ulrich numbers only makes things more confusing. Yes, 2000 and 2001 saw unprecedented closure rates—125 and 166, respectively—but that recession period was an anomaly, if anything. The years between the indicated 1991 to 1992 and 2008 recession years experienced much higher closure rates, and are comparatively high even to 2000 and 2001 standards.
In other words, Ulrich’s numbers don’t necessarily jibe with the idea that closures are tied to a recession—there are lots of closings every year. As I mentioned earlier, 2006, not a recession year, had 104 magazine closings—twice as many as last year.
Plus, it would make a lot more sense to dig deeper and examine the kinds of magazines that close. Say, big mass-market mags versus smaller niche enthusiast titles.