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year in mag

The Year in Magazines
Slow Recovery Fuels Cautious Optimism-and Change
by Mark Haverstock
Published in Writer's Guide to 2011
Writer's Institute Publications

    After the economic downturn of the last fewyears, the magazine market seems to finally be on the rebound. Numbers are up on both  magazine starts and advertising sales. Minonline.com reported that in September 2010, 94 of the 145 magazine titles they track gained advertising pages-a significant gain from last year.  According to Media Life, the worst is over in terms of declining ad revenues, thanks in large part to the ongoing recovery of the U.S. economy.

Among the big ad page gainers over the first half of 2010, Media Life reports entertainment, up 13.9 percent in pages, personal finance, up 14.3 percent, weekend magazines, up 10.7 percent, bridal, up 14.1 percent, science and technology, up 15.6 percent, and food titles, up 19.4 percent. Leading the down categories were business titles, off 4.6 percent in pages, news weeklies, 8.6 percent, travel, 6.7 percent, and music, off 33.4 percent.  Of course, these numbers need to be kept in perspective, as they follow several years of significant declines.

Samir "Mr. Magazine" Huzni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism, sees a comeback in magazine startups.  Ushering in the second quarter of 2010 were 56 new titles publishing four times or more a year, in addition to 155 annuals and special issues from established publishers-beating last years figures. 

The month of July 2010 witnessed the birth of 68 new titles, from which 21 magazines were published with the intention of having a publication  frequency of four times or more per year, according to Husni.  "Compare that with 58 titles in 2009, from which only 12 had the intention of publishing four times or more per year," he says. "And if you think July 2009 was a bad year in comparison to 2010, look at the numbers from 2008 and 2007: A mere 34 titles were launched in July 2007, from which only 10 had the intention of publishing four times or more. In July 2008, 54 magazines were launched and only 13 had the intention of publishing four times or more."

Recent numbers are raising hope for the market, but not before a shakeout, according to MediaPost.com: "Unlike the broad recoveries that followed previous recessions, this rebound appears to be limited and specific, with certain categories, like beauty and fashion, leading the way, while others - automotive and shelter - still lag behind."  While new startups test the waters and the majority of established magazines try to hold their own, others are going on the auction block or finding other strategies for survival.

More than ever, freelance writers have to keep up with the times. Why? The fortunes of magazines are changing and it's changing what they want - or don't want - from freelancers.

Surviving Tough Times

    The recovery seems to be continuing, albeit at a slow pace."It's important for publishers to manage and plan for the long term," says Pat Haegele, senior vice president and publisher of Good Housekeeping. "Strong and trusted brands rise to the top during difficult times.  Magazines that differentiate themselves and are relevant to what's happening in their readers' lives are successful."

Like many businesses during the economic recession, some publishers had no alternative but to hold the line or cut back when it comes to staff, number of pages, and even number of issues in response to the market. Magazine icon Reader's Digest shed 10% of its worldwide staff.
Fortune is currently publishing 20 issues, down from 25.

If you look at the current issues of Time and Newsweek, their page count has shrunk significantly. Their August 23, 2010 editions each had only 64 pages.  Compare this to issues from the mid 1950s, with averaged more than 100 pages. Sunday newspaper insert Parade magazine is a mere  fragment of its former self at 16 pages.       

One way for publishers to remain competitive is to explore new ideas and new media. "When the advent of television hurt the pillar of the company, its newspaper operations, Hearst expanded into magazines and television," says Cathie Black, chairperson, Hearst Magazines. "The company got into cable when it was first emerging decades ago. Today we're in interactive media and about 200 other businesses. Within the magazine division, we've really pushed technology, we've pushed efficiency, and - in terms of being resilient - we always have a couple of prospective magazine ideas in the petri dish that are being considered."

Another strategy for survival is to foster camaraderie, as opposed to competition, to promote the medium during these challenging times. Time Inc., Meredith, Hearst, Conde Nast and Wenner Media have invested millions in ad space to tout the value of magazine over web advertising. Chris Clark from  Highlights and other children's magazine editors from Cobblestone, Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids, and other publications have formed a kind of "fraternity" that meets annually to discuss common concerns about their segment of the market.  "I think we all understand the importance of communicating that magazines are a vital medium-one that is valued, valuable, and vibrant as ever," says Haegele.

Move to Digital
    Print is by no means dead-people will always read magazines. "Today, I think there's a very strong belief in the future of print, and especially the future of magazines as we know them today, and whatever forms they'll take over the next five to ten years," says Black. But it's clear that the newer incarnations will be digitally based.
Julie Agnone, Executive Editor of National Geographic Kids, cautions that magazines shouldn't undermine their print business with digital, but make it complimentary. "What's the point of having online content exactly as it appears in print?  Digital can give kids a better, enhanced experience through videos, sound, etc. We can serve those who love print or love digital."

Ever-falling prices on digital reading devices are hastening the transition. With the advent of the iPad, lower prices on Kindles and Nooks, as well as smartphone apps, magazine delivery is slowly migrating from Postal Service to wireless and Internet delivery.  For example, magazines that currently produce a Kindle edition include familiar titles such as:

-Scientific American
-Reader's Digest
-New Yorker
-PC Magazine
-Science News

The number of e-mags continues to increase monthly, from established publishers wanting to establish a digital beachhead to newer small startup ventures, the latter benefitting most from the low operating costs of electronic publishing. Magazine websites have also continued to grow, from 5,395 in 2006 to more than 8,092 in 2010-nearly a 50% increase.

Economics in a soft economy and young readers who have grown up "wired" both make digital more attractive. "Huge postal bills disappear with digital," says Lou Waryncia, Editorial Director for the Cobblestone division of Carus Publications. "Kids today are getting lost in virtual worlds as we got lost in books in our childhoods."

Carus Publications is planning to test the waters by releasing digital editions for thirteen of their fourteen children's and YA titles in spring 2011. "We are working with several companies to explore options," says Waryncia."It won't be a big splash; it will be a soft launch. Our goal is to provide a different method of delivery to those who want it."

Companies are looking to create a new revenue stream from their digital versions, whether downloaded or viewed on the Internet. No more free lunch. Bonnier, publisher of titles such as Saveur, Snowboarding, and Working Mother introduced subscription sales for iPad versions of Popular Science, Popular Photography, Sound & Vision, Transworld Skateboarding and Islands. Apparently readers are willing to pay. Bonnier announced they had 22,000 downloads of its April 2010 Popular Science.  At $4.99 a click, total sales would be nearly $110,000-with no printing
or postage expenses.

Time Inc. CEO Anne Moore said that Time magazine subscriptions are also available on an iPad near you-for a price. "It's becoming increasingly clear customers will pay for trusted, quality content," she said.   

And the iPad wars are heating up, creating more potential sales for magazines willing to digitize.  A long list of tablet gadgets are either already here or coming, including BlackBerry's BlackPad, which was scheduled to debut before the end of 2010.  Not to be outdone, Hewlett-Packard's Palm-based Hurricane and Dell's Looking Glass, are both scheduled to arrive first quarter 2011. Asus, MSI, and Samsung also have entries in what could become a crowded field.

New Starts for 2010

    Even as the market moves through a slow-and perhaps shaky-recovery, there seem to be no shortage of publishers who are willing to take a chance.  The number of magazine startups over the last twelve months are impressive, according to Husni.

Food/Drink: Cheese Connoisseur, Delight-Gluten Free, Light and Delish, Chop Chop, Yum Food and Fun, Northeast Flavor, Dash Magazine

Health/Fitness: Power, Whole Living , Family Health & Life, Healthy Mom and Baby

Beauty/Fashion:  Hair's How, Unfair, Jewelry Affaire, Jones, Beauty Etc., The Kit

Bridal: Get Married, Mississippi Weddings, Charlotte Wedding

Family: Thriving Family , Parenting Children with Special Needs , Parents of Color, Tots to Teens Magazine, Family Time for You and Your Crew

Kids/Teens: Girlworks, Kaio, Berry Blue Haiku, Bumples, Guardian Angel Kids, Kids X-Press,  Sweet Designs Magazine

History/Cultures/Ethnic:  Patriots of the American Revolution, Hand/Eye Magazine, Muslim Quarterly, Monarch

Lifestyle: LOTL Bound, Cowgirl, Equanimity. Inked Girls, Elite

Business/Finance/Technology: Elevator, iPhone + iPad Life, Connected World, Nomad Editions

Home/Decor: My Home My Style, Flea Market Style, Log Cabin Homes, Green Building & Design

Hobbies: Hobby Farms Chickens, Peterson's Hunting, The Quilt Life

Entertainment: American Idol, Corner Store,  Black Entertainment Diaries, Gamefan (returned to publication)

Sports: Poweredge Magazine, Pinstripes Plus, Skyboxx, Athlon Sports, Troon Golf and Travel

Music/Art: Metal Clay Artist Magazine, Prims, Listen, Artsee   

Automotive/ Vehicles: Motor Trend Classic, Ultimate Motorcycling, All-Terrain Vehicle

Regional: Orange Appeal, Serendipity, VIP South, Invitation Tupelo, Baltimore Sun Magazine, Akron Senior, Utah Boomers

Men's: Gorgeous

Pets: Bella Dog

Travel: Smithsonian-Travels with Rick Steves,  Aqua Cabana,

Miscellaneous: Seeing the Everyday, Open Minds, Advance for Nurse Practitioners, Physicians Assistants, Bull Spec, MD Magazine


    As author Isaac Asimov once said, "It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today." There's no better example than the magazine publishing industry, and the following represent shifts in the current market.

Reed Business Information (RBI) finished its divestment of US controlled circulation magazines. They announced the closing of a number of trade titles, including: Building Design+Construction, Chain Leader, Construction Bulletin, Construction Equipment, Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Control Engineering, Converting, Foodservice Equipment & Supplies, Graphic Arts Blue Book, Graphic Arts Monthly, Hotels, Logistics Management, Material Handling Product News, Modern Materials Handling, Plant Engineering, Professional Builder, Professional Remodeler, Purchasing, Restaurants & Institutions, Semiconductor International, Spec Check, Supply Chain Management Review and Tradeshow Week.

However, other titles were sold, including Broadcasting & Cable, Library Journal and Interior Design. Publishers Weekly was acquired by former PW publisher George Slowik, JR.

Market mainstay Newsweek went on the block in 2010 and was purchased by businessman Sidney Harman, a founder of the Harman-Kardon audio brands. Twenty-five percent of the current staff was furloughed. Whether Harman can turn the magazine around and attract ad dollars remains to be seen, especially since some magazine market gurus doubt there will continue to be room for the current news weeklies. Competitor U.S. News already has retreated from print to publish in a digital format.

Chemical Week has been sold to IHS by Access Intelligence.

Mountain Gazette has been sold by AIM's Skram Media unit to Summit Publishing (Blue Ridge Outdoors, Elevation Outdoors, Breathe).  According to foliomag.com John Fayhee will continue as editor and the first issue of Mountain Gazette under Summit.  Monthly publishing and circulation of 45,000 will continue, with distribution in Colorado, as well as parts of Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

BBC Worldwide was looking to sell a majority stake in BBC Magazines, publisher of Radio Times, Top Gear and their other titles.  No buyers announced at press time.

Essence Magazine's corporate parent sold the publication to Time Inc. Ed Lewis, the magazine's founder, decided that in order for the magazine to grow and prosper, it needed to be with a company such as Time Warner, even if that means the nation's second-largest black magazine would no longer be owned by African-Americans.

Corvette Fever was merged with Vette magazine. Both magazines are owned by Source Interlink who also publishes Motor Trend and Hot Rod Magazine. In recent years the quality of the magazine has suffered, partly due to the economic realities of competition that magazines have with the internet as well as the company having two similar publications.

Modern Luxury Media was sold to Dickey Publishing.  MLM publishes luxury lifestyle titles, including regional city lifestyle magazines, (The Atlantan, Cs, Modern Luxury Dallas, and others), brides magazines, hotel titles, interiors and the Men's Book.  Dickey publishes Jezebel and Atlanta Luxury Living.

Breakaway and Brio. Focus on the Family is no longer publishing the print magazine. Kor Ministries has taken over the digital ministry and looking forward to future expansion of the magazines.


    It's no secret. Many magazines have been hurting because their circulation totals are dropping and their ad page sales are waning. Here are some of the magazines that ceased print publication this year.

Fledgling rock music title, Paste, ended its print run after appealing to its readers for donations to keep the publication afloat over a year ago.  "Prolonged down of the ad market" was cited as the official reason.  Editor Josh Jackson planned to keep the website going, leaving the door open for its possible return.

Bedford Communications has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. They publish Laptop and several technology buyer guides. Setbacks are not unusual in the tech magazine category, especially since there is a vast amount similar content free online.

According to Folio, Reader's Digest cut 270 jobs, about 10% of its worldwide staff.  The company emerged from bankruptcy early in 2010.

Cycle News magazine has ceased publication after a run of almost 50 years. The weekly magazine specialized in information related to motorcycle championships, industry and riders.

World Watch magazine, according to the Worldwatch Institute, ". . .will regretfully cease publication of with the July/August 2010 issue. Like many magazines, World Watch has struggled to overcome the unique challenges that subscription-based print publications face in the current economic and media environment."

HEEB Magazine has shut down its print magazine but will remain active online at heebmagazine.com.

Natural Solutions magazine, published by a financially strapped InnoVision Health Media (Vibrant Health, Balanced Living), ceased publication with the June 2010 issue.  According to foliomag.com, InnoVision was seeking to sell the magazine.  In a website note readers were reassured that "the rest of InnoVision Health Media's products - including its books and peer-reviewed medical journals - are not affected by this decision."  The website will remain live.

I.D. Magazine (F&W Publications) had won five National Magazine Awards since 1995, as it covered the art, business and culture of design. The downturn in print advertising, the increasingly specialized information needs of I.D.'s readership among product designers, and the proliferation of other resources all worked against I.D.'s ability to survive, according to Gary Lynch, publisher and editorial director of the F&W Media Design Community.   

National Geographic Adventure had amassed half a million paying readers since its debut as a quarterly in 1999. But it fell victim to the brutal economic climate in the print media business. Its ad pages fell 35% in 2009, a year when monthlies as a whole fell 21%, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. After exploring a sale of the title, National Geographic eventually decided to pull it from print in early 2010.

Giant Magazine. "The economic downturn has had a tremendous impact on print media, and we had to make the decision to suspend printing the publication," said Tom Newman, president of Interactive One. "Additionally, we recognize the increase in demand for real-time information and see this as an opportunity to leverage our existing robust online platform to better serve Giant consumers and advertisers through our interactive medium."

Crinkles, a magazine for children ages seven to twelve designed to stimulate a child's curiosity about people, places, things and events, both real and imaginary, ceased publication-though the website and back issues are still available.

knowonder!  Ceased publication, but says on its website, "We should be up and running again in six months to 1 year."

Pocono Parent . This regional publication dedicated to articles about families and children in the Poconos ceased publication and its website is no longer accessible.

The Magazine is Dead/ Long Live the Magazine

     No doubt, 2011 will continue to be a difficult journey for magazine publishers. Costs will continue to be a challenge, as well as figuring out how to make money from the Web, mobile and tablet platforms. But it won't be devoid of bright spots, and hopefully the  recovery will continue and help stem additional losses.

A number of magazines have or are in the process of moving toward online publication or digital to compliment their print versions.  Highlights has sponsored an interactive site on the web for years. "We are now studying the e-reader market, including the iPad, and trying to be thoughtful and strategic about how we play in that space," says Clark. "Clearly, print and digital will have to learn to co-exist and support each other."

There are also several recent examples of publishers abandoning the print format entirely, such as Skiing. Some of this comes as a reaction to a slow economy, but it also is following a trend that's been happening the last three to five years resulting from the increasing influence of the Internet.

"Consumers no longer value holding a book, newspaper, or magazine in their hand any more or less than they do holding a lap top, iPhone, or Kindle," says Brian Feinblum, chief marketing officer of Planned Television Arts. "As technology changes how we get our information and entertainment, it also changes how we promote them. But what hasn't changed, in an ever-growing competitive media landscape, is the need to promote these information products."

What is a Magazine?
Samir Husni notes that being in the content business and being in the magazine business are two completely different worlds. While the magazine business deals with content, he says that content is only but a fraction of what makes a magazine. "The myth that is now sweeping our industry that we are content providers and it does not matter how our customers get their information may be the Trojan horse that will aid some publishers continue on their print suicide path," he says.
Husni believes that magazines are much more than content-they're  much more than information, words, pictures and colors all combined in a platform that serves nothing but as a delivery vehicle. "Magazines, each and every one and each and every issue of every one, are a total experience that engages the customers five senses. Nothing is left to chance," he explains. "It is a total package. Without the ink, the paper, the touch, the smell, the look, the taste, it will not be called a magazine. Every issue is a complete new experience with a sense of ownership, showmanship and membership and is renewed with the arrival of the next issue."

So before we close the book on print technology and start moving with the tide of this new digital world, Husni suggests that we stop and think for a moment on what makes a magazine a magazine and why in this digital age millions of magazines worldwide are still thriving in ink on paper creating daily experiences, one issue at a time. "Magazines are much more than content and they are even much more than ink on paper," he says. "The total physical aspect of each 'storehouse' to use the original meaning of what a magazine is include all of its properties, from the size of the store to the content of the store, seen and felt together."

Reality Checks

If you're interested in keeping your finger on the pulse of the magazine industry, here are a few sites that track the essential stats and goings-on.

Magazine Health Watch    If numbers are your thing, you've come to the right place. This database of information on ad pages and revenue in consumer and business publications is updated daily by Inquiry Management Systems, a publishing service company. The database lets you evaluate listings any number of ways-especially handy if you're interested in finding out which magazine categories are on the rise.

Wooden Horse   They provide information about US and Canadian consumer and trade magazines such as addresses, phone numbers, editor-in-chief and managing editor, website URL, email addresses, circulation, frequency, subscription price, as well as summarizing changes in the market. In addition, they also publish editorial concepts, writer's guidelines, reader demographics and editorial calendars, these being offered by subscription.

Mr. Magazine   He is "the country's leading magazine expert," according to Forbes ASAP magazine, and The Chicago Tribune dubbed him "the planet's leading expert on new magazines." In his blog, you'll find the latest on magazine startups and quarterly stats about the market.

Video in a Magazine

    It was only a matter of time before print magazines started incorporating video elements. One of the pioneering publications to try the approach was Meredith Corporation's  Successful Farming, which partnered with advertiser Bayer CropScience to produce a video insert that appeared in the August 2010 issue.

The ad, for Bayer's Votivo product, was a four-page insert that included a two-inch-by-two-inch video screen on page 20 of the magazine. The screen played an opening message when a reader opened to the page and then four additional videos depending on which buttons the reader pushed.
17,000 of Successful Farming's subscribers received the special insert.

The insertion costs were similar to other inserts that we run, with the exception of increased postage because of the weight of the piece and that it had to be manually inserted into the magazine," says Scott Mortimer, Publisher. "We also worked closely with our printer and with the U.S. Postal Service to ensure that it would not be damaged in the mail stream."

New Magazines   

Here is a sampling of the new magazines that set up shop either as print, web, downloadable, or all of the above.

Advance for Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants http://www.advanceweb.com/nppa.html (Merion Publications, monthly)  It combines two of the publisher's titles: Advance for Nurse Practioners and Advance for Physicians Assistants. The new publication will cover up-to-the-minute clinical articles, practice and professional news, health coverage and industry profiles.

Akron Senior  http://www.yourseniormagazine.com/ (Senior Magazine, quarterly) The regional magazine is the newest of six from parent company Senior Magazine, with region-specific feature articles in Colorado Springs, Denton County and Collin County, Texas, Scottsdale, Texoma, (North Texas and Oklahoma) and Northshore Louisiana.
All-Terrain Vehicle http://www.atvmag.com/ ( All-Terrain Vehicle Magazine, quarterly) Magazine  ATV and Side-X-Side enthusiasts in both Canada and US.

American Idol  http://www.americanidol.com/news/view/pid/3180/  (Fremantle Media, quarterly) The essential viewer's guide for loyal Idol fans.

AquaCabana Magazine  http://www.aquacabanamag.com/   (AQUACabana , quarterly) AQUACabana Living Well Magazine as the first truly waterproof poolside magazine in the USA. It is made to look like the individual hotel's publication and also carries a collection of local features and ads geared to the hotel and the resort's local area.

Artsee  http://www.ncartsee.com/ (DWEEB, Inc., bimonthly) Artsee is amagazine for artists, art patrons and art lovers. Their mission is to provide a forum where local artists, collectors and enthusiasts can come together to share information, ideas and inspiration. We keep our readers informed of art happenings in the Carolinas by highlighting the people, places and organizations who play a vital role in making art accessible to everyone.           

(Complete list in original article)