Facebook and all those bloggers and vloggers have shredded the magazine market. “Me time” used to describe readers’ relationships with their favourite magazines; now it belongs to social media. For enduring brands, print is becoming ancillary to digital services. Many will still prosper, but magazines are becoming a much smaller business.
That is why even non-investors have been captivated by the grisly sight of the disintegration of the world’s most famous magazine publisher. Time Inc brands illuminated the twentieth century in the US and throughout the world. Almost everybody knows the flagship magazines Fortune, People, Sports Illustrated, and Time itself. But this is the company whose revenue has declined every year since 2011 and has constantly been in the news for its profit warnings, cost cutting – and unsolicited bids for the business.
The UK subsidiary – like its US parent – has been trumpeting a “transformative success” slightly out of step with the facts. The publisher of a mixed bag of 50 magazines, including Country Life, What’s on TV, Wallpaper, Ideal Home, Horse & Hound, Yachting World, Decanter and Woman & Home, last year hailed its 2015 results as a “significant milestone in the turnaround of the company”. But the figures were clouded by the bonanza £415m sale of the company’s landmark headquarters.