Anyone taking a look at magazines from the 50s or 60s would see a huge difference between them and the magazines of today. Before the advent of computers, many consumers relied on magazines to provide information, recipes, home decorating tip and business information. They read eagerly about the private lives of celebrities and eagerly awaited each issue.
The back to school issues of magazines such as Seventeen could be nearly as thick as many telephone books.Flash forward to 2009 and 2010 and magazines have changed a great deal. They have to compete with other sources of information, with a primary competitor being the computer.
Ad revenues are down in nearly every magazine being published. Some very specialized magazines have managed to stay profitable, however. Question is: how long can they continue to do so? Is the future of the magazine industry in trouble and will magazines soon be collector’s items, becoming as odd a sight as record players, typewriters and similar items?
There are some magazines which seem to buck the trend. Among the most popular are home magazines. Buyers seem to like to collect these and even tear out pages to take to home design stores. The number of home magazines has more than tripled since 2005, with news stands filled with a record number of these type of periodicals.
Even so, with the advent of computers and access to information online, the magazine industry is facing many challenges. Magazines with a long and notable history, including Gourmet and Portfolio magazine, have ceased publication. Newsweek magazine is up for sale, raising questions about how people want to get their news.
Perhaps receiving it weekly is simply too long to wait, especially when the click of a button can allow readers to have access to breaking news. Computers have many wonderful features but can signal the death of magazines which used to offer similar information.
Magazines like Newsweek, also known as newsweeklies, face special challenges. Why do they often get into trouble and face possible doom? Simple. They can’t compete with online news, information which could be breaking on the same day as a weekly news magazine hits the stand. Magazines can’t cover breaking events as quickly as online publishers. However, they can be purchased for recipes, holiday crafts, biographies of celebrities and more.
In order to lure readers, magazines must have a special hook or angle. Mary Englbreit’s Home Companion magazine featured paper dolls in the back of the periodical as well as collector prints suitable for framing and hanging on the wall (so did the old McCalls magazine). Special sports magazines covered the Olympics and featured posters which could be put on the wall. All of these features helped entice readers into buying magazines.Maybe they still will.
There is another challenge facing the magazine industry. It takes paper to fill magazines and paper generally comes from trees. Magazines have been attacked for being wasteful and not good for the environment. When given a choice between buying a magazine or reading similar information online, environmentally conscious consumers often opt for the online experience.
Mostly, it comes down to simple economics. What role do magazines have when it comes to providing information and what will consumers pay for? In order to remain competitive, the magazine industry has to create issues which readers want to buy, collect and keep for more than a day or two. Certain special collector’s editions seem to do well and even fly off the stands. But it is becoming harder and harder for the magazine industry to carve out a unique niche when it comes to providing information.
Also, in order to stay profitable, magazines must have advertisers. Unfortunately, they are competing for advertisers who often prefer to appear online. Ad revenues have been shrinking at many magazines as their usual advertisers decide to cut back on expenses or move to online ads. Advertisers have to stretch the budget as far as possible and that often means cutting particular magazines out of the mix.