The rise of the internet and digital media has brought a range of unique and exciting opportunities for young journalists and writers.
However, they also find themselves in an ever-changing and somewhat uncertain industry. Sadly, many experts have argued that the internet will eventually kill print media.
Newspapers will be the first to go, according to experts. Although some non-experts are not convinced.
But I was horrified to discover that magazines are apparently heading in the same direction. As someone who grew up reading sports magazines, I can barely comprehend the idea that future generations will never know the pleasure of building up a print collection of sporting memories.
There is no doubt that the internet poses a major threat to print media, but aren’t these predictions a little premature?
The main problem is advertising. Newspapers make most of their money by selling advertising space and advertising companies have almost completely deserted them in favour of popular websites and apps.
Magazines, on the other hand, might just be able to weather this digital storm because they are not heavily dependent on adverting dollars.
It’s hard to imagine a world without magazines. They’ve been around since the 19th century and have shown a great deal of resilience to survive many periods of technological advancement.
They managed to retain their appeal despite the invention of film, radio and television. Many felt that each of these forms of media would spell the end for magazines. However, they successfully adapted to each unique challenge.
So why is the internet such a threat?
For decades, print publications were the dominant medium through which we consumed news, politics, gossip and other special interests.
Even in the 1990s, the idea that digital media could pose a major threat to print publications wasn’t taken particularly seriously.
However, things changed dramatically when bulky desktops were replaced with portable gadgets- laptops, smart phones and tablets.
Much of the information that we used to find in print is now much more accessible online. Often for free!
Doomsday predictions have followed ever since. The video below perfectly encapsulates them.
Blogs like my own are also blamed for print media’s imminent downfall.
It’s not surprising that many experts have been so quick to write the print industry off. It’s certainly not the first time that this has happened.
There are numerous examples throughout the history of media where the emergence of a “new medium” was closely followed by forecasts of the “old medium’s” imminent demise.
Academic researchers Ballatore and Natale call this the “myth of the disappearing medium.”
It turns out that in most cases, these forecasts are completely wrong.
So let’s take a quick look at the state of the magazine industry. Is it really all doom and gloom?
It cannot be denied that it is much more difficult for magazines to attract readers and advertisements in the age of digital media. We consume most of our daily news and information online, primarily because it is so quick and convenient.
Magazines struggle to compete with online publications because their articles are generally written months in advance of publication.
As a result, the magazine industry’s advertising revenue has consistently declined, year after year.
Magazine circulation has followed a similar trend, decreasing significantly. Australian Women’s Weekly’s total circulation in 2012 was a whopping 60% lower than its circulation in 1991.
Here’s another worrying statistic– 51 million fewer copies of audited magazines were sold in Australia in 2012 compared to 2007. That’s a huge dip in just five years!
Here’s the Good News
But there may still be some life in this old dog yet.
Despite Magazines’ rapidly declining sales and struggles to attract advertising space. There is also evidence that they have retained their own unique cultural appeal.
In 2009-10, Magazine Publishers Australia found that 80% of our population who are over 14 had read one or more magazines per year.
In 2012, 172 million copies of audited magazines were sold. That’s an average consumption rate of 5.5 magazines per second!
When you consider that many popular imported subscription magazines and small magazines are not recorded in these statistics, the industry might not be doing so badly after all. New non-audited magazines are also rapidly emerging.
Circulation figures can also be misleading. Readership figures are a stronger measure of a publication’s impact as they indicate how much a magazine was shared and how many people really consumed the product.
Data from Roy Morgan shows that magazine readership has actually grown from two to three people per magazine to five people per magazine.
So how have magazines survived and to some extent thrived, in the digital age?
The answer is that they have adapted and focused on things that they can deliver to customers that the internet can’t.
Magazine publishers have embarked on a policy of segmentation, focusing their resources on smaller print runs of a greater number of titles and targeting niche audiences rather than the general population.
It’s no accident that many of the magazines you see today are very niche. Golf and fishing magazines that limit their advertising to golf and fishing equipment are a perfect example.
Specialist publications with clearly defined brands can create a specific community that readers become attached to. It’s like these readers are part of an exclusive club. This sense of community cannot be easily replicated by digital media.
Magazine purchasers are generally fairly wealthy so advertisers who sell relevant products are more than happy to purchase advertising space in these niche publications because they know they are reaching individuals who are interested in their products and have the money to buy them.
These publications have kept the industry alive through the rise of television and so far, the rise of the internet.
Another issue that doomsdayers have failed to consider is that the internet and magazines may not necessarily be in competition with each other. Who’s to say that these two forms of media can’t complement each other?
Many magazines have their own websites, which they use to learn more about their audience. Website data and online forums provide them with detailed insights into the values and interests of their readers and they can then use this information to make their product even more appealing.
These websites also increase readers’ engagement with the publication itself.
The internet may have impacted magazines’ advertising revenue and circulation, but they have successfully adapted to the new market.
If the internet does kill the magazine industry, it won’t be any time soon. Magazines are still going strong and they have survived similar technological revolutions before.