Sunday, April 15, 2007

New Study Projects Growth in Magazine Titles, But Lower Total Magazine Volume

"Only government can take perfectly good paper, cover it with perfectly good ink and make the combination worthless."
Milton Friedman (American Economist, b.1912)

New Study Projects Growth in Magazine Titles, But Lower Total Magazine Volume

BY Matt Steinmetz sid=52560&var=story

A recent study conducted by Print Industries Market Information and Research Organization (PRIMIR) offers a look at a number of trends and market influences likely to shape the North American magazine printing industry over the next five years. A highlight of the study, titled "Magazine Printing and Publishing 2006-2011," is its offering of four potential scenarios that may play out through 2011: the "disaster" scenario, the "pessimistic" scenario, the "optimistic" scenario and the "most probable" scenario. It also chronicles the rise of the digital age of publishing and brings into focus the needs of today's and tomorrow's magazine publishers and printers.

The research, which was conducted by Waxhaw, N.C.- based PrintCom Consulting Group over the course of one year and released in March, draws on interviews with almost 100 industry experts, and the analysis and study of approximately 640 magazines.

The verdict? Printed magazines probably aren't going anywhere in the next five years. In fact, the study cites the birth of 1,370 new magazine titles in the U.S. and Canada in 2006. This number swells the total number of magazines in print to an all-time high of 26,140. The study also forecasts a net growth of 820 new titles this year, totaling 26,960 magazines by the end of 2007.

Not all of the research's prognostications were rosy, however. The total number of ad pages contained in North American magazines will decline by about 9 percent from 2006 to 2011, it predicts, despite an overall increase in number of titles during this same period. The study attributes this decline in advertising to a shift of some content from print to the Web.

"The most probable scenario [according to the study] for 2011 calls for a net growth in titles of 4.6 percent from 2007 to a net total of 28,205," says Jackie Bland, managing director of Reston, Va.-based PRIMIR. "Total magazine volume will erode, however, due to declines in frequency, page count and average run lengths. A disproportional growth in annual publications and special editions will contribute to the frequency decline, while advertising softening will result in a minor reduction in pages."

Bland also cited recent postal legislation as a likely determinant in this outcome. "An expected 2007 jump in postal costs may also lead publishers to reduce page sizes and paper weights," she says. "Thus, page volume in 2011 is forecast to drop 9 percent as compared to 2007."

Old and New Media - Not war It's a Symbiotic Relationship,

Mutual Suspicion
By William Powers, National Journal

I was at one of my usual stopping places online, Arts & Letters Daily, when I noticed a headline mentioning Stephen Greenblatt, the Harvard professor who wrote Will in the World, a strange and wonderful biography of Shakespeare from a few years back. I'm a Greenblatt fan, so I clicked.

The link took me to The New York Review of Books and a Greenblatt essay called "Shakespeare and the Uses of Power," which opens with a high-grade anecdote about Bill Clinton and Macbeth. I was cruising along nicely when, about 10 paragraphs in, I felt an urge I always get with longer pieces on the Web -- a desperate craving for paper. I hunted around for the hard copy of the review but discovered that we'd let our subscription lapse, so I went back to the screen and printed the piece out.

A few days later, Greenblatt was on Open Source, the nationally syndicated public-radio show hosted by Christopher Lydon, to talk about the essay, and I tuned in. I've been on that show myself more than once, so maybe I'm biased, but I think Lydon is a marvel. I e-mailed him the next day to say that I'd loved the conversation, and he wrote back that there was follow-up stuff on the show's blog. I went there and read it.

Now think about the way this little media journey unfolded: from a Web-only media site, to the online version of an old paper periodical, to paper itself, to radio, and then back to the Web.

The standard view of the media today is of two separate, warring kingdoms. Bloggers and their ilk want to take down the uppity mainstream media, the "MSM" that they despise -- traditional newspapers, magazines, and such. And the MSM curse the day that the digital barbarians stormed the castle and spoiled everything.

It's a great story line. And if you reflect on it for about one second, you realize that it's not true. Old and new media have a symbiotic relationship. Without The New York Times, The Washington Post, CBS News, and the other media ancients, bloggers who cover news and politics would have nothing to talk about. Meanwhile, the mainstreamers have their own Web sites, and they adore the traffic they get from bloggers linking to them.

I've written about this dynamic before, as have others. But there's one aspect of the symbiosis that is rarely mentioned: the way it helps us consumers by serving as a two-way filter. New and old media vet one another's work, each helping us to unclutter and winnow the content from the other side. When a major print outlet shines its light on a particular Web site or podcaster, I sit up and notice. Why? Because there are millions of bloggers and podcasters out there, so the establishment media can afford to be very choosy. A blog has to clear a high bar to win that kind of attention.

Thus, when I noticed that The Wall Street Journal (hard copy) was praising an architecture blog I'd never seen called BLDGBLOG, I opened my screen and typed it right in -- it was a winner. After seeing a BusinessWeek (again, the paper version) story about a podcaster known as Grammar Girl, I told my 9-year-old about her and now we listen to her together.

Likewise, the online media don't link to just anything in the mainstream. Because many digital types are constitutionally suspicious of that world, when they praise something that appeared in print, it's noteworthy. And when they mock old-media content or call it an outrage, well, that's interesting, too. As I wrote this column, the news tab at was reporting that tons of bloggers were linking to a Time magazine story titled "An Administration's Epic Collapse." I don't know why -- I haven't even glanced at Time this week. Now I will.

The filters aren't foolproof, but sometimes they work in spite of themselves. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a front-page teaser for an article (subscription) about "relevant" Web sites for 2008 campaign coverage. I flipped directly to the piece and thought it was a big yawn. The Web fare that it touted sounded so dull that I didn't even go online to check it out. Happiness is knowing what to ignore.

-- William Powers is a columnist for National Journal magazine