Six reasons why magazines have a future

“The future of magazines is glorious,” said Simon Wear of magazine house Future UK, wrapping up the industry event ‘What Happens to Magazines?’ held in London lon Monday. “Both print and online,” he added.

He would say that, though: Future has been selling a successful 1.7m magazines a month through the recession with its hobby and geek-lad magazines. As written elsewhere, you could call 2008 the Year of the Niche title as people look to do things at home, cheaply, or the things they love most during the economic downturn.

Others were not quite so confident. Louise White, Group Marketing Director at B2B publisher Incisive Media was clear that the publishing business model was broken and needed fixing: classified and recruitment revenue was dead, a sentiment echoed by a number of editors in the b2b market.

And Ashley Norris, founder of commercial blogging network Shiny Media, emphasized the fact that the new generation of media consumers just aren’t in the habit of buying a magazine, or buying media in general. That meant organised packages of content from one media product–such as a magazine–were going to end. “The world has changed, guys.”

But the panel provided six reasons why magazines as brands, whether print or online, do have a future:

1. Andrew Davies of idiomag, the music content personalisation site, emphasized the possibilities for each unique user building their own magazine of content through companies, like his, using software sophisticated enough to be ultra-niche; and the advertising opportunities that provided were unrivalled for consumer relationships.

2. Mike Soutar, founder of Shortlist Media and “pioneers” in quality free magazine content, was confident that print magazines had found a model (brand-to-hand distribution and outsourced costs, keeping magazine teams very small) that would mean print magazines could continue to be there where a screen wasn’t.

3. Sarah Clegg, chief executive of John Menzies Digital and provider of, delivering digital editions of top brands, believed they had passed the tipping point and, critically, persuaded publishers that they couldn’t charge their normal cover price for a digital magazine that had no transport, printing and retail costs attached to it.

4. Ashley Norris of Shiny saw a future of 20-30 blogs in a network doing the work–and replacing–the work of 2-3 magazines, and brokering creative sponsorship between brands and social media as central to the business model for producing great experiences online.

5. Simon Wear of Future, perhaps the most positive and persuasive, believed that his magazine company would be growing as they had a) remembered they weren’t software companies, and also b) had remembered how to write realy strong, probing news around their niche interest sectors, whichs translates well online, and meant their nice-to-have content had found its way back to need-to-have status.

6. Finally, the most hopeful and most sceptical at the same time, Louise White of Incisive said their b2b titles were not magazines any more, but information providers that found their way into their audiences’ work flow–“platform agnostic” content that was as important to be on someone’s Blackberry than online or in print.


7 thoughts on “Six reasons why magazines have a future

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  4. focoafrprtng

    It is interesting to me that the hobby and niche areas of magazines have flourished in the bad economic times. I would think that people would have to give up the little, fun things and focus on food, bills, etc. I guess magazines could just be a cheap version of that facet of life, taking the place of expensive experiences.

    Free online magazine content should hurt this, shouldn’t it? People satisfying this need without paying for it? Or are they being introduced to this content and purchasing it in the near future?

  5. Andre van Loon

    I found two of the points above more persuasive than the others, and think one crucial point has been missed.

    The effort of a magazine company to create and distribute nice-to-have to need-to-have content is key. With ever more free content available through easier and faster routes of access, the strategy of publishing strong stories on niche topics sounds intuitively a good way forward.

    The conception of b2b magazines as information providers that find their way into audiences’ daily grind is, and I speak from personal experience, right on the mark. I would not subscribe personally to some of the content I do at work, but would be considerably impaired without it professionally.

    However, the role of the reader is not talked about at all strongly enough. Magazines are surely there to serve their customers – and to serve them well (and I don’t mean advertisers here). Magazines which put the reader front and centre of their content strategy are much more likely to have a chance to prosper.

    Just because there is a long-term and pervasive trend towards digital does not mean that moving away from print is right for all magazines. Personally, I would much rather continue to buy some favourites in their print edition, so that I can read them away from the screen I sit in front of from 9 – 5.

    The screen has its limits.

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