Hedging bets

Last weekend, The Economist (a pretty good example of a healthy magazine) analyzed the magazine industry in an article whose title ("Non-news is good news") was less informative than its subtitle, "The threat of the internet has forced magazines to get smarter".

Although The Economist leads with a reference to the "print is dead" movement (one of my least favorite memes), it quickly moves to more substantial territory. The magazine notes, dryly:

"Hard news is perhaps the hardest to make profitable. It is increasingly instant, constant and commoditised (as with oil or rice, consumers do not care where it came from). With rare exceptions, making money in news means publishing either the cheap kind that attracts a very large audience, and making money from ads, or the expensive kind that is critical to a small audience, and making money from subscriptions. Both are cut-throat businesses; in rich countries, many papers are closing."

Because The Economist looks globally, they are happy to cite data from PwC that shows strong growth in magazine and newspaper consumption continuing through 2015 in Latin America. North America, not so much.

In response, periodical publishers are diversifying their revenue streams. The more successful publications have downplayed advertising revenues, strengthened newsstand and subscription revenues, and offered marketing services to current and potential advertisers. Licensing also appears to be on the rise.

The article concludes with some examples of publications in France and Germany that seem to have sustained demand for a print-only product. In an era of abundance, that might work, but I'd still be looking for ancillary revenue streams to help me hedge that bet.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.