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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Magazine Printing: There’s Still Life in Niche Magazines

I just read three interesting articles about the future of magazines: “The Future of Magazines” by Thad McIlroy, as presented on the website The Future of Publishing, “Size and Segmentation of the Magazine-Publishing Market,” by Jay Delahousay, of Demand Media, and “The State of the News Media,” by the Pew Research Center. All three are available on the Internet, and I would encourage you to search for them.

What I find interesting about these articles is that they do not assume the imminent demise of magazine printing.

It All Comes Down to the Advertisers

Although “The Future of Magazines” addresses a number of issues related to the current state of periodicals (general interest, scholarly, business-to-business, etc.), I want to highlight McIlroy’s assertion that:

“Few magazine publishers could survive the loss of ad revenue if they discontinued their print versions. While they are becoming increasingly adept at generating revenue from their web sites, web-only publishing models cannot supplant a print and web model.”

The second article, “Size and Segmentation of the Magazine-Publishing Market,” makes a similar point:

“Consumers still have a more positive attitude toward advertising in magazines over other mediums, including TV and the Internet.”

It is my understanding that print ads still command a higher price from advertisers than do online ads. For now, it seems that if readers are in fact more comfortable with print advertising (or perhaps are so inundated with online advertising that they tune it out), then the ad dollars that pay for magazine printing will continue to flow toward print magazines. If the goal, from the point of view of the advertiser, is to increase exposure to their ads (the number of eyeballs served up for a particular advertisement), it stands to reason that advertisers will continue to buy ads in printed magazines and that magazine publishers will maintain circulation to provide exposure for the advertisers who pay the bills.

More Focused–or “Segmented”–Magazines Do Better Than General Interest Magazines

I base my curiosity about the current state of magazine printing on the conflicting information I have read online and in various trade journals. On the one hand, I hear about the death of custom printing and the migration of news stories toward tablet computers and other e-readers. At the same time, I’m seeing more local, focused magazines and tabloids popping up.

A colleague of mine just started a magazine in Northern Virginia. He focuses on a narrow segment, one small city close to Washington, DC, but he includes diverse articles on the food, arts, activities, and attitudes of the residents of this city. The advertising in my colleague’s magazine focuses tightly on the lifestyle and interests of this one segment: the people of this vibrant city and the goods, services, and activities they buy or pursue.

In a similar vein, on several trips I have taken to Ocean City in the last year I have seen many magazines and tabloids devoted to beach events, cultural activities, restaurants, and real estate.

In the Washington, DC, area, I have also seen numerous magazines focusing on the Hispanic population and the African American population—again, smaller segments than the general interest publications of prior years.

The key word in all of these cases is “focus”: tight segmentation. The niche market for magazine printing seems to still exist and to perhaps even be growing.

They’re Not Gone Yet

Some magazines are actually folding, or their ad revenue and circulation are declining. “The State of the News Media” by the Pew Research Center attests to this fact. However, at least for the moment, it seems that “niche” magazines are doing well:

“Traditional newsmagazines have faced increasing competition from nontraditional niche or elite news magazines. These publications continued to gain ground in 2011. Of the four niche or elite news magazines we track, only The Atlantic suffered a total circulation decrease, with a fall of 2.7%.”

Granted, the Pew article focuses on The Week, The New Yorker, The Economist, and The Atlantic, which are a particular kind of niche magazine, but I think the idea is the same: the narrower the market, the more resilient the magazine.

It Has Been a Better Year for Magazines

“The State of the News Media” by the Pew Research Center goes on to say that:

“New magazine launches were also on the rise. In all, 239 new magazines were launched in 2011.”

“Only 152 magazines folded during the year, a sharp improvement over the 176 that shut down in 2011 and the 596 that died the year before.”

This is a hopeful sign. At least for now, magazine printing and online news distribution seem to be peacefully coexisting.

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