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The State of Magazines: Is Print Media ‘Virtually’ Over?

Published on 10/1/2015 by K Scott

Will tablets table the print magazine industry? Will eBooks eLiminate magazines as we have known them for decades? As it claws its way into the seemingly inevitable transition from print to digital, will the magazine industry survive the switch? 

According to The Association of Magazine Media, “… magazine advertising pages have dropped to 1992 levels, based on 20% more titles.” 

With the success of consumer magazines riding primarily on advertising revenue as opposed to circulation revenue, according to Thad McIllroy of thefutureofpublishing.com, the importance of this monetary source is compounded. Simultaneously shifting ad dollars to web advertising, he continues, “is one of the largest problems facing large-circulation magazines today,” the economy notwithstanding. McIllroy sees the development of digital magazine formats as extending the reach of the printed versions as a positive thing with a host of benefits but is not likely the magical savior for the industry.

So what to do?

A successful magazine, print or otherwise, is much more than words and images on tree pulp. A magazine that lasts- one that thrives and carves a niche for itself- has a special relationship with its readers and followers. It’s a bond between the publisher and the reader; the publisher supplies the reader with stories that they think the audience will find interesting, and the audience, in turn, supports the magazine so that it can continue to supply the stories.

According to Digital Tonto, many publishers have, unfortunately, taken one of two approaches. Either they attempt to ignore the medium as much as possible, or they devote too much attention and effort to being tech heavy and trying to incorporate every SEO and metadata gimmick in the known universe. Both, he observes, ignore what should be the primary focus: the audience.

The consensus seems to think that, like cassettes and VHS tapes, print magazines will simply fade into the annals of history as the last remaining stalwarts will shrink in number. But conventional wisdom also sees a renaissance within the magazine industry, as digital advertising becomes more and more involved and precise, with ad success able to be measured in real time. Ads will become more and more interactive, with videos and games and things of that nature being commonplace. As with all things that change the paradigm in business and life in general, it takes time for the bugs to be smoothed out and the newness to wear off. Magazines and the publishing industry will survive, but they will have to adapt to a changing world, one that relies more on the abstract model rather than the physical.