Periodically, firms like Oxbridge Communications and industry observers like Samir Husni announce their counts of magazine launches and closures. Aside from the somewhat disturbing reality that these counts never agree with one another, the pronouncements have taken on the feel of Bill Murray's "Groundhog Day": compare births and deaths, then pronounce the magazine industry well, or not.
The first half complete, the counters are back. Mediafinder, a unit of Oxbridge, determined that 133 magazines have launched in 2012 (down slightly from 138 in 2011), while 48 titles shut down (lower than the 74 titles that stopped publishing in the first half of 2011).
Husni claims that 100 new magazines with "some intended frequency" (greater than once a year) were launched in the first half. Another 294 special-interest, book-a-zine or annual titles have also been started this year.
The announcements are predictable. Oxbridge publishes directories of magazines, and Husni has branded himself "Mr. Magazine." Announce a number and the press will surely follow.
But these aren't good measures of anything related to magazines. In 2009, I wrote a post ("More is not more") that tried to debunk this simplistic measure of the relative health of the magazine business. In the post, I claimed:
- There is no standard definition of what a launch might be;
- Measuring the mere presence of launches when advertising, subscription and newsstand revenues are flat or declining is short-sighted
- Not all launches are created equal: A one-shot is not quarterly; a quarterly is not a monthly; a monthly is not a weekly
Rather than continue to count births and deaths, I suggested instead that we measure total circulation revenue per issue delivered. Doing so would focus attention on the sustainability of new titles. It might also teach a few established magazines how to stick around a bit longer. I offer the idea up once again.