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.

Can they survive in print for much longer?









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.


About Sherwin Coelho

MA Multimedia Journalism student at Bournemouth University. This website is my Masters production project. The aim of this project is to focus on technology and how it is changing the landscape for publishers and artists because of the death of newspapers, magazines, books, CDs and DVDs. Some may argue to the contrary, but I’ll aim to explore how fast the game is changing, what people think of it and whether it is a good or bad thing.

Posted on June 27, 2011, in Magazines and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Coelho possesses the skill of attracting the reader to his magnificent style of writing. As the article progresses with a knowledgeable discussion, it generates more interest in the reader for exploring a new dimension on print migration. It’s indeed very helpful for a novice person like me.

  2. Amazing insight if there ever was one, technology is indeed life changing – generations both young and old are becoming increasingly mobile. The concept of digital now does extend to people from all walks of life. Magazines going completely digital is inevitable but also the platform of print based publishing can be changed entirely to suit its needs for example by means of certain technology called AR coding instead of reading an interview in text format, readers can watch video clips or see behind-the-scene clips of the interview smack in the middle of their magazines. This will add value to paper-based magazines and help change the entire concept or way of looking at things…now no longer in black, white or colour but as moving images in front of you’re eyes after all seeing is believing.

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