Brand identity is the key for magazines

While visiting Los Angeles, British tourists Harvey Marcus and Cassie Steer stopped by a nearby newsstand. After scanning the hundreds of titles, Marcus, with a shrug, said he probably wouldn’t buy one.

“I don’t think they’re worth the money,” he said.

And Marcus happens to know a thing or two about the business. He’s an editor at Schön, a London-based magazine about fashion and art. Meanwhile, his girlfriend is a former beauty director for the U.K. edition of the fashion magazine InStyle.

So, what are they doing in Los Angeles?

“I’m out here because InStyle closed just before Christmas, so I’ve got some time off,” Steer said.

InStyle U.K.’s circulation was falling, so it recently shut down its print edition and is now a digital-only brand. One of the causalities was Steer’s job.

“I was sad because it’s a reflection of how everything’s going,” Steer said. “But I wasn’t massively surprised. There had been rumors for a while.”

“Magazines are dying, I’m sorry to say,” Marcus added.

Every year, dozens of magazines fold their print editions. Next month, Condé Nast will say goodbye to the print edition of Self, a long-running health and fitness magazine. This comes on the heels of several other magazines — like Bloomberg Pursuits, Mental Floss and Complex — that recently announced they’re pulling the plug on print.

Still, for every magazine death, four new ones are born, according to Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi.

“There are at least four times more titles in the marketplace than there was in 1978,” he said.

For years, industry experts have been pushing back against the notion that print is dead. “Nothing ever dies. No form of media goes away. It changes,” said Rebecca Sterner, a long-time magazine consultant.

“I think all the magazine companies we work with see themselves as magazine media across formats – they’re really much more format agnostic,” said Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of the Association of Magazine Media, or MPA.

Industry experts said publishers shouldn’t pit digital against print. With many magazines relying on both, overall audience numbers have been growing for the last few years, according to MPA.

“We do not have a magazine problem,” said Husni. “We have a magazine industry problem.”

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