Magazines Don’t Have To Die

by Erin Canetta

13 December, 2011

Mobile devices have completely altered publishing. We’ve heard about the chains like Borders going under and we’ve seen magazines shrinking and disappearing and this has all happened in a very small span of time. When I started in the magazine business 14 years ago, we were still sending film to our printer to be scanned and made digital for us. It took six people to design, write and produce our largest publication but it was a beast at 100+ pages per issue. Today, that same magazine averages 44 pages and only has three people on staff not including sales reps. Many big b2b publishing companies are turning into ghost towns and those who are left know their days are numbered. In the last 3 years, I’ve known of 47 different b2b titles that have shuttered their doors.

That said, our client, Convenience Store Decisions—a b2b magazine—has had an absolutely incredible year. This is a magazine that a large publishing company ran into the ground and walked away from. A young publishing company, Harbor Communications, bought the title and completely turned it around. What did they do right? Everything. They refused to print an issue less than 68 pages even if they only had 15 ad pages to start, they didn’t skimp on paper or ink quality, they gathered an incredibly potent sales and publishing force, stood behind their talented editorial staff and hired a group of designers who have been with them all the way to help put their magazine at the top of its game—if we do say so ourselves.  They have never sold their industry or themselves short. Everything about them says quality. But they have also redesigned their website, developed a mobile application, created conferences and basically done everything they can to cater to their industry while moving in the direction that technology is taking them.  They haven’t given up on the paper product nor should they. Rather, their paper, web and mobile products along with their in-person events all work in conjunction with one another to support the CSD brand.

So what is the take-away here? If there a service or product that is needed by a particular market, no matter what changes come along, there is no reason that service or product can’t be successful as long as customer’s needs—rather than the presentation to the investors—are always the priority. Sometimes you have to take it on the chin awhile to get something off the ground but once it takes off, hard work and proper money and resource management should keep it going.

Magazines don’t have to die off but they are changing. Many of the same industries exist and benefit from ideas shared. But many publishers have given up readjusting their approach. I think a lot of the reason is big publishing companies have lost site of the markets they service. They don’t make the effort to entrench themselves in the market. I’ve worked with amazing publishers and weak publishers and the difference is that great publishers are their magazine(s).  They foster and raise their magazines and care for their growth and well-being past the ego of the title. They support and direct their team while tirelessly reaching out to the industry. I hope more entrepreneurial publishers buy run down titles and turn them around. The industry needs you whoever you are.  And we’d love to work with you!