Around the World in 21 Days: Magazine Power and Reach Are NOT a Figment of the Imagination…

June 5, 2013

at Arab Media ForumWhen it comes to magazines and magazine media we are not lacking the research that shows the effectiveness of print and its reach. We are lacking people who are willing to translate that research and put it into practice. What profit do we gain if magazine companies ask their researchers and research departments to conduct all kinds of research and then ignore it?

I have been traveling the world in the last three weeks. I have attended and spoke at four different “research gatherings” in Lisbon, Portugal(The IMMAA Conference); Dubai, United Arab Emirates (The Arab Media Forum) ; Barcelona, Spain (The FIPP Research Conference); and Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Sanoma). Most of the readers of my columns and blogs know my views on print in this digital age. However, what I learned from those international meetings is that I am not alone. I learned that what I have been preaching is not a figment of my imagination or the fact that I am, in the words of John Harrington, a “print passionista.” I learned that print is still alive and kicking worldwide and researchers are showing the evidence for that statement on a daily basis.

at FIPPStudy after study is showing what print can deliver to advertisers and to readers at the same time. The return on the investment is great for both customers. To say I was relieved to hear that and to see all the research would be an understatement, but to say I was not bewildered as to why the leaders of those media companies are not following up on their own findings would be ludicrous on my part.

I asked the media researchers at one of the conferences, “Why after all this data, do your CEOs and publishers continue to push ‘Digital First” and not apply the findings of your research?” The simple answer I heard was that they’ve closed their eyes and ears and are determined that the only future is the digital way. They, in fact, are not only ignoring the research but also ignoring reality and common sense. I wonder if that is the effect of the “virtual” world we live in today that makes us forget about anything and everything that is physical and tangible.

National Geographic overseas-26None of the researchers, including myself, deny that we live in a visual, digital, mobile age; however, that does not mean that print should play second fiddle to digital in today’s market place. All agreed that, yes, some magazines are struggling, some others are dying, but a lot more are coming to the market place. When visiting Dubai for example, to speak and attend the 12th Annual Arab Media Forum, I visited one of the many newsstands at the Mall of Dubai. You name the magazine it was there. Marie Claire in Arabic, Esquire, the Middle East edition with a promise of a weekly print Esquire coming soon to the market place. Forbes Middle East in both languages, English and Arabic, Men’s Fitness Middle East, National Geographic in Arabic, etc. etc.

Women's Health-20Women's Health-14New Scientist-15
In Lisbon I picked up several new magazines, and in Barcelona I picked up the first issue of Women’s Health that appeared on the newsstands the day I was leaving… By the time I landed in Amsterdam the first issue of Women’s Health in Dutch was welcoming me at the airport. New magazines are aplenty and there is no shortage of them.

Newsweek And that joke about the #last print issue of Newsweek is only alive and well in these United States of America; the rest of the world is still enjoying a printed Newsweek. Needless to say the recent news about the possible sale of Newsweek is no joke. I could easily say I told you so, but I am resisting this temptation since there are a lot of folks who are offering their opinions about the past, present and future of Newsweek.

So, why the doom and gloom you may ask in the magazine business? Well, for one, the magazine industry is not making as much money as it used to make. Other non-media platforms are making more money than in ad revenues than the entire print industry. None of the media entities have figured a way, a good way, to make dollars and not pennies from their digital ventures. And above all, our institutional memories are so in need of a crash course in learning the past and how it applies to the present.

Did you know that Radio advertising revenues exceeded all of print ad revenues in 1934? Did you know that Television advertising revenues exceeded all of print and radio advertising revenues in 1955? The mere fact that someone else, some other medium, media related or not, is making more money than the magazine or print industry, does not mean that print or magazines are dead. If my neighbor is making more money than I am, it definitely does not mean that I am pushing up daisies in some serene cemetery on the backside of nowhere!

It is about time to wake up and focus on our customers, the readers/viewers and advertisers. If we are going to survive we better listen to our customers and follow their wants and desires. Research is showing that customers in this digital age still love and utilize magazines and other print entities. Why is it print and magazines leaders are not listening to their own research and studies? I do not know, but what I know for sure is that it is funny when less than 25% of iPad owners tell researchers that they prefer to read magazines on digital devices and media reporters spread the news of the digital success of reading… Folks, read that aforementioned statement one more time, less than 25% of iPad owners enjoy reading their magazines on the tablet… What about the 75% that don’t? Since when is 25% a much bigger deal than 75%? I do not know.

In closing, maybe all the naysayers of the magazine industry and the future of print in a digital age, need to take a trip or few trips overseas. Well, forget about overseas, maybe a trip to Des Moines, Iowa and see what Meredith is doing and the guarantees it is offering their advertising clients. Where there is a will and a vision, there is a way. Print and magazines are not dead; some folks wish they were to fulfill their own prophecies. False prophets start believing their own divinations and they work hard to fulfill them. Well, I have two words for them, go fish.

Printed Pages-9Print is well, alive and kicking. Today’s print is not your father’s print. Today’s magazines are not your father’s magazines. But in both cases they are still print and they are still magazines. Like it or not, they are here to stay. So, to the gloom and doom zealots: go fish in another pond!


  1. […] Continued here: Around the World in 21 Days: Magazine Power and Reach Are NOT … […]

  2. I agree with you, but I don’t believe I called you a print passionata. I called you Bubba.

  3. […] Read Mr Magazine’s reflection on his recent round-the-world trip here. […]

  4. Interesting and encouraging. Do you have a source for the 25% figure for iPad owners, please?

    • Mequoda Group, a digital publishing consultancy is the company behind the numbers.

  5. I love the enthusiasm of Mr. Magazine’s broadsides. Ya can’t help but love it and him. But enthusiasm doesn’t show up on most revenue charts. Samir is actually, oh so correct, that there are more print magazines now than ever before. But quantity doesn’t have any relationship what-so-ever to the successful bottom line.

    Newsstand sales are down in this country 45% in the last five years, and subs are down 16% over the same time period. There is no emotion in those figures only the facts. Digital reading is rising rapidly and print isn’t. For the record, print will not die, but it will never reach the robust dominant nature of times past. Only the best of the best can survive in print because it is increasingly too expensive to make and ship. Therefore there needs to be much less print, but of a superior quality in edit and construction for its eventual survival.

    • Bob, revenue charts and circulation numbers are not going to change unless media companies change the business model. The problem is with the business model, the content of some print media, and people who are determined only to focus on the 25% instead of the 75% of our customers… There is no need “to be much less print”… there is a need to have more and better print.

  6. Samir…always enjoy your take. I have believed for quite some time now that the business model for magazine success, while it should include some ads, is not primarily advertising driven. There is a better business model that includes a mixture of sponsorship and actually selling product. This is the model that non-media companies have been using for a long time, and it simply works better in today’s advertising environment. I wish more media companies would give their print products a chance by not judging their success through advertising support. Maybe someday.

    • Thanks Joe… Totally agree. The question is which major media company is going to take the lead ushering this change? All the best, Samir

  7. Neither of you addresses the loss of actual readership. I’m sure if you had the new business plan that would re-energize the public’s buying habits you would have shared it. The market is in clear contraction. There are too many magazines and on top of that the newsstand industry itself, which carries these titles, is also under great stress. How do you combat a loss of 46% in sales in a five year period? The only answer is have superior addictive content that people are willing to pay for (much to Joe’s point). I guess my question is this: Is creating superior content actually a “New Business Plan” or something we should have been doing all along? At the end of the day, the value of anything, even a new business plan, is only what the people are willing to reach in their pocket and pay for.

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