Digital Publishing Magazines

The Future of Magazine Publishing: Niche, Specialised Content Produced with Excellence

For the past eight years, the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, University of Mississippi, has brought industry leaders together for a three-day conference.

The most recent of these, ACT 8, brought together some of the magazine industry’s most renowned proponents including Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, Meredith’s Liz Vaccariello and Daren Mazzucca as well as FIPP’s President James Hewes to name just a few.

One of the event’s highest profile speakers, Bo Sacks, President of Precision Media Group and a member of the US Publishing Hall of Fame, gave a keynote lecture entitled, “The Future of The Magazine Industry in the 21st Century”. Given his standing and in-depth knowledge of key industry trends, we felt it important to share his lecture.

Here are a few of the key takeaways:

  • Sacks opened by speaking about a debate he participated in in 2007, where he argued in favour of the industry evolving with the digital age. Whilst he notes that the magazine industry is coming under intense pressure, not least with advertising declines and paper price increases, Sacks still feels the industry is not only surviving but “thriving”.
  • A central tenet of Sacks’ talk is the concept of the ‘niche’, arguing that the smaller the niche, the better the chance for survival in the industry. He adds that specialisation is important, readers want something that they cannot find elsewhere. Indeed, so long as you consistently produce “editorial excellence” in a chosen niche, Sacks believes your magazine will do well.
  • When speaking of the future of print, Sacks predicts that print will always have a special place for those willing to pay for it. However, with the way the industry is evolving, he argues that print will become a luxury item; making them highly profitable – with niche, special interest magazines having the most longevity.
  • Sacks acknowledges that some of the old giants of traditional media, what he calls ‘The Giant Newsasaurus Rex’, are starting to fall. He notes, importantly, that people no longer draw a distinction between new media and legacy media brands.
  • Sacks also discusses how readership is evolving – because change is happening at a rapid rate, the industry must evolve with it. He discusses the term ‘premeditated reading’ when referring to print, suggesting that more thought and effort goes into reading print than digital. He explores what he calls the ‘generators’, an extremely influential group of 1 in 3 millennials, who he describes as being “the most sophisticated media consumers the world has ever seen”, who are as willing to use traditional media as they are to use new media.
  • Finally, Sacks concludes with the notion that print will always hold its place for both scientific and practical reasons. He quotes studies that prove that paper stimulates both a stronger emotional response and significantly improved memory and comprehension. Furthermore, he notes that digital media allows for “seductive” distractions whilst on print there is “nowhere else to go.”

You can watch Sacks’ entire presentation below:

 

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