By: Michael Sebastian
Magazines' tablet editions might offer a promising future, but presently they're still struggling to gain traction. Through the first half of 2013, magazines reported 10.2 million subscribers to their digital replica editions, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, good for just 3.3% of overall circulation.
Several times this week I have been involved in correspondence and conversations about QR codes and various other forms of augmented reality. The theory continuously presented to me is that print will be saved by the use of augmented reality. It is at that point I stick my feet into the ground, as I think there is nothing much further from the truth on this subject than this thought process.
I need to be clear here, as I have many friends and associates who own or work for augmented reality companies. I support the use of AR in that it is a wonderful tool and can be a bonus for any printed product for either ads or editorial. But I am not a fan of augmented reality in regards to it being used the savior of print. In that regard, it is a total red herring to print's ability to succeed or not succeed in regards to printed magazines.
Here is my reason why although it is a good tool, it isn't something that you could or would use on every page, or for any extended period in a printed magazine. When we are offered a QR code or other AR launch system in a magazine that takes us to the web, we are then forced to balance two separate devices. The web product/cell phone/tablet in one hand and a magazine in the other hand, or on your lap, or perhaps on the desk, making neither a comfortable long-term reading experience. Continually sending people from the printed magazine page to an electronic device defeats the purpose of having a good print product and the concurrent rewarding lean back experience that we are all so proud of as an industry. As the old expression goes, putting lipstick on a pig only wastes your time and annoys the pig. Although AR indeed has its valuable moments and its usefulness, AR is a distraction to the nature of our printed products. In this case it is trying to fake the electrification of the printed page. If I wanted to get online, I would have done so. If I chose to read a magazine, why send me somewhere online? Does that make sense to you? READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE
FORTUNE -- Jeff Bezos, John Henry, and Warren Buffett are not investing in dying businesses. They don't do that. They are investing in assets poised for a rebound. Despite the recent spate of media last week about the spiraling of newspapers, there are a few facts for industry pundits to consider.
Newspaper media comprised a $38.6 billion industry in 2012. While those revenues saw a 2% decline compared to 2011 revenues ($39.5 billion), we're also starting to see promising shifts in the newspaper business model: growing revenue streams across several categories -- some of which have only emerged in recent years.
Just this past year, circulation revenue rose by 5% -- from $10 billion to $10.5 billion -- as digital subscriptions grew dramatically, marking the first gain in this category for the newspaper industry since 2003. READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE
Magazines, newspapers and direct marketers are girding for the possibility that the U.S. Postal Service will pass an exigent rate increase on top of the annual postal rate that is capped by the consumer price index. The increase, made possible by a 2006 law that gives the postal service the option to raise rates in case of extreme circumstances like a terrorist attack, could be as high as 10 percent across the board.
It couldn't come at a worse time for the media and marketing industries that depend on mail service. "We're finally getting our footing back since the 2009 recession," said Mary Berner, president and CEO of the MPA, the Association for Magazine Media. Magazines, for example, spend $3 billion annually on postage. A 10 percent increase would add $300 million to an industry that is already challenged. Some magazines could go out of business, Berner warned. Others could cut back on mail delivery and redouble digital efforts. READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE
Reading the headline above may leave you thinking, "There's a solution to the magazine industry's newsstand woes? Why haven't we fixed this a long time ago?"
If only the solution was that simple. But like a tough nut, there's are many layers to the issue that must be cracked, peeled away, before the real meat is revealed and relished.
And with this article, I think we've been doing that, peeling away the layers, one at a time. All of the industry veterans quoted in this article have their own experiences and track record to back up their opinions and perspectives. We must take these, along with the thoughts and ideas of many others, and like a jigsaw puzzle piece them together so that the picture becomes clear and comprehensible.
Conde Nast has made digital publishing headlines for some time as it’s one of the first major magazine publishers to create flawless and device-optimized digital editions of its family of magazine titles using Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite. These editions, available for a variety of smartphones and tablets, also come bundled for print subscribers, but can be had as stand-alone digital subscriptions.
Generally, observers have been focusing on the sad performance of the past five-plus years, where total units are off by more than 40% and dollars by more than 30%. The New Single Copy decided to take a look at our review of the first half of 2003, ten years ago. Then, total unit sales for audited magazines were nearly 474 million copies. This year it's 250,000. That's a drop of 47.2%. Retail dollars went from more than $1.5 billion to $967 million, slipping 36.7%, and that's without any adjustment for inflation. Another point: The preliminary data for the first half of 2003 was based on 537 magazines with any single copy sales. This year the AAM reports contained only 346. Publishers seem to be making an emphatic statement about their confidence or lack of it in the retail marketplac
Last week I had the privilege of attending what was called an executive sustainability summit in the Hearst tower. I went into this meeting thinking that I pretty much understood the important parts of sustainability in relationship to the publishing industry. I am here today to tell that I was wrong and that I didn't know half of what I need to know on what that issue is all about, nor did I have a clue to the legal responsibilities for our corporations in respect to the process.
Barry Diller made an interesting comment on Monday when he said, "I wish I hadn't bought Newsweek, It was a mistake." It seems Mr. Diller does not yet understand that it is the value of the content provided to the public and not the perceived value of the property that makes one publication survive and thrive, while another crashes and burns.