Sunday, August 12, 2007

Focusing on Success

Focusing on Success
Noelle Skodzinski
Publishing Executive Magazine

You have probably heard the news that Condé Nast is folding women's magazine Jane. This follows a number of closings this year, including other big-name consumer and b-to-b titles. All these closings have to worry even those of us with the brightest outlooks. There also are a lot of mixed messages out there, and sometimes even if there are reasons to be optimistic, they get lost in the shuffle.

While we may have seen a ray of hope in the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) announcement that 105 magazine launches were announced in the first quarter of 2007, a 4-percent increase over the same period in 2006, that ray was somewhat clouded by a July 8 blog entry titled "There May Be More Announcements, but There Are Fewer New Magazine Launches in the First Half of '07," by Samir Husni, Ph.D. (aka Mr. Magazine), chair of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi. His post suggested that while more new magazines may have been announced in 2007, "the real numbers of new magazine launches have witnessed a major drop in the first half of 2007 compared with that of 2006." He even noted, "In fact, this is the first year that I can remember the numbers dropping by more than 38 percent from the previous year's numbers."

Mr. Magazine predicts a decline in 2008 as well. The not-so-dismal detail behind those figures, however, is that the two-year decline is part of the historical, predictable ebb and flow of the market, and he expects to see a turnaround in 2009, if historical patterns hold true.

Another bright spot appeared earlier this year when the Print Industries Market Information and Research Organization (PRIMIR) presented a report showing that the magazine industry is alive and kicking. Announcing the results of the study, "Magazine Printing and Publishing 2006-2011," PRIMIR reported:

" . . . Magazines . . . can be found in the vast majority of North American homes and businesses, and that trend will continue despite the onslaught of the Internet and other competitive alternative electronic media. As evidence of the continuing viability of magazines, the report, which is the result of an extensive year-long study of the magazine industry, cites the birth of 1,370 new magazine titles that were issued in the United States and Canada last year (2006), swelling the total to an all-time high of 26,140 titles. In 2007, a net growth of 820 new titles is expected, bringing the end-of-the-year number of magazines to 26,960. This is the largest number of magazine titles ever identified and is a testimonial to the vitality of the media for both advertisers and readers."

It's hard to ignore the predictions of print's continual decline, as well as news of layoffs and folding magazines. But it's also hard to ignore the fact that many publications are still growing. According to Inquiry Management Systems (IMS), which tracks advertising across a variety of publishing markets, seven out of 21 of the largest b-to-b publishers saw ad sales increases in January to April of 2007 vs. the same period in 2006. While that could be viewed as the glass being two-thirds empty (14 companies saw declines), it raises the question: Are the ones shutting their doors just the product of market challenges in their particular fields? Or perhaps poor management or direction?

I believe that some print publications are just not of the nature and focus to continue to be relevant in today's market. Some are just poorly run, and others just got going in the wrong direction and couldn't make it back.

Regardless, the thing that is most important for the rest of us is to look at what those publishers who are succeeding are doing right and to seek information and tools that can help us produce quality content (in any medium) more efficiently and cost effectively, and to adapt to an increasingly multimedia world. As so many of us are proving, it can be done. PE

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