Magazines must find a niche to survive
Editors and journalists talk about how the magazine industry can survive despite fall in sales and publications migrating online.
Every February the Audit Bureau of Circulation releases the circulation data for magazines and magazine publishers in the UK over the July to December period. A glance at the data for February 2011 consumer magazines shows that the year-on-year percentage of sales by publishing houses has been falling drastically.
Only four out of the 12 publishing houses have registered a year-on-year percentage increase in sales, the highest being 0.7% (BSkyB and Dennis Publishing)
The reality is that, like newspapers, magazines sales, too, have dipped massively in the last few years. Computer Weekly and Accountancy Age join the list of magazines that have migrated to online-only magazines in the recent past.
Chris Wheal was the former sub-editor of Computer Weekly. He says that people misunderstand what the product is in a magazine:
Migration happening, but slowly
According to Wheal, ‘The biggest effect the internet has had on this is that it helps the advertiser reach a larger audience for the same amount.’
Gareth Weekes was the former news editor of Accountancy Age and spoke about how it relied entirely on its revenue for client advertising. He points out that today you can walk into any big company and get a customer loyalty magazine for free. But he reckons that for some publications the allure of multimedia works better to entice viewers online as opposed to the physical copy.
Clare Hopping, editor of Know Your Mobile, an online website owned by Dennis Publishing, agrees with Weekes, saying, ‘With digital, you can do micro-sites and resource centers. It can be produced instantly, so you can get there a lot faster than you can with print.’
But she doesn’t believe that online titles have an advantage over their physical counterparts, mainly because people still get attracted to glossy magazines, especially on journeys where internet access is a problem.
‘People want something to hold. You can’t access websites on a train or when there’s bad signal. Five years ago everyone was talking about how print will die out and how websites will take over but we haven’t seen that at all or as much as everyone’s been saying we’re going to,’ says Hopping.
Online blogger, journalist and author, Paul Bradshaw, says, ‘Though the audience and advertising for magazines is going online, readership has not been affected drastically because magazines are a more luxurious, higher-end product.’
Finding a Niche
Wheal agrees that magazines still hold an advantage, which they need to use wisely. He says that magazines can still survive, provided they carve a niche for themselves in the market.
He uses the success of The Economist as an example to prove that magazines can survive both physically and digitally so as long as you ‘have a strong brand and a niche audience that have a good excuse to invest time and money in your product.’
Before he became a best-selling author, Andy McDermott, worked as an editor for DVD review. He reiterates the importance of standing out from a crowd: ‘Games and entertainment magazines will suffer because that’s exactly what you can find online. If you’re too general you stand the risk of losing out too quickly.’
Wheal’s solution is for magazines to clearly separate their online and print audience. He says that only the analyses, features and big discussions should be saved for the print magazine.
Though it clearly seems that magazines hold an advantage with their glossy formats and alluring headlines, they need to reinvent themselves and find a niche they can specialize in. Otherwise browsing speeds and 3G may eventually catch up with them.
Posted on June 27, 2011, in Magazines and tagged abc circulation uk, accountancy age, advantage, andy mcdermott, chris wheal, clare hopping, computer weekly, dennis publishing, dvd review, economist, gareth weekes, know your mobile, magazines, niche, online, paul bradshaw, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.