BoSacks Speaks Out: Evan Esar once said that statistics is the only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions. So it goes each time a new newsstand report comes out. Don't get me wrong, we need those reports. How else would we keep score? Are there winners and losers? Of course, and there always have been. It is a historic cycle, some die and whither so others can live.
There has been a decade long slide in the overall sales of magazines on the newsstand. Only an idiot would argue the case. But the key word in that statement is overall. Many magazines are doing quite well and will continue to do so for quite some time. There is no single title or publisher that is tied in a meaningful way to the industry average. All that matters is how you are doing, not your distant cousins.
Look at it this way. Media has an invasive species problem. 20 years ago we lived in a communication jungle that had settled into a balance of revenue survival. The existing media types shared the rewards of a bountiful landscape. Radio, print and TV all had their fair share of the fruits of revenue paradise. There was little cross-breeding and all were happy. Then the invasive species of digital distribution dropped into paradise and nothing has been the same since. The aggressive new arrival attacked the balance of power in the jungle indiscriminately. As Darwin said, it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Everybody is now scrambling for a new balance. The invader is now intertwined in the landscape and getting stronger all the time. Where there was once a triumvirate, there are now an ever-evolving and unlimited number of revenue scavengers. The "Papyrus Newsasaurs Rex" and the "General Information Distributus" is diminishing right before our eyes. But the global distribution of information formally known as publishing is stronger than ever.
Do not fear the evil of stats. Your job and your goal is to put out the best possible product on whatever substrate makes sense. Many paper products will survive just fine in the new order of things, but not all will do so. Listen to your customers and they will tell you what to do. Finally paraphrasing Mr. Spock, be creative and prosper.