The news this past week that Reed Publishing walked away from more than 20 of its premier magazine titles, unable to sell them, is shocking news, even though we’ve all known for some time the magazines were up for sale. Reed closed a variety of magazines that were dominant in their markets, even some #1s. What does this mean for the value of print? Yet another signal print magazines are dead? Here are some thoughts:
- I don’t believe they’re dead, but the Reed magazines that survived were the ones that made more revenue in their online businesses than from print. It signals definitely that “readers” can still be drawn to do magazine communities, but they spend more time with them on the magazine websites than in the print magazine.
- I think that balancing print in with a wide variety of tactics that encircle our sweet spot is the right course of action. The closure of magazines this past year has made the survivors thicker, more likely to remain viable long term. So it will be easier to pick which ones we should support.
- The role of editor quality is becoming more evident. In a world filled by blogs, casual thinkers and less-than-insightful writers, there’s a lot of junk to wade through. Engineers are still busy people, and time is still a premium. The publications and websites that do the best job of sifting through information to present exactly what readers need to know, with the most insight, accuracy and crispness, will be the ones that continue to draw an audience.
- As one of my publishing friends said (nod to you, Bill Barron of Hearst), print has to be viewed in a balance, like anything else. It’s not a “print OR online” choice, it’s a “print AND online” world. No more than 10-15% of a budget should be spent on print, and only in those publications where there’s PROVEN readership of the print magazine. That’s the bottom line – readership. If people read an email newsletter, we run in it. If people read a print magazine, we should be visible there as well. We should go where customers spend time. End of story.