2005 PUBLICATION PRINTING Outlook -- Readers Paying the Price
The changing relationship between magazine revenues and ad page counts is just one consequence of a trend toward focusing on the reader as a primary revenue source, asserts Samir "Mr. Magazine" Husni, Ph.D. Husni is a recognized publishing industry expert and professor in the Department of Journalism at the University of Mississippi.
"If there is one word to describe the 2004 magazine scene it is change," Husni says. "A change of mentality, more than anything else, among the top magazine publishing companies."
Beginning with the consumer magazine sector, the publishing business model is starting to change. Publishers are realizing it isn't necessary to publish the biggest, thickest magazine in order to make money, he says.
LIFE's reintroduction is a high-profile example of this trend, along with the likes of Hachette Filipacchi Media's For Me magazine, the journalism professor argues. The latter runs with 64 pages and is still able to make money, he points out.
Husni traces this trend back to the impact of German publisher H. Bauer Publishing (Bauer Publishing USA) with its titles like In Touch Weekly and Life & Style. Bauer had been flying under the radar for years while developing a publishing business that didn't depend on advertising as a revenue source, he says. The crux of this business model involves rediscovering the broader concept of circulation, rather than just subscriptions, and finding ways to make money from it.
"There has to be a change in mentality by publishers to charging the real price for a publication; making readers pay for the content," he argues. "We can't have magazines that readers buy for $4.95 on the newsstand, but can subscribe to for $.50. The two numbers will probably meet in the middle, with newsstand prices coming down and subscription rates going up.
"Advertising will continue to be important, but we can't go back to the days when most of a publication's revenues came from advertising," Husni continues. "Advertisers have more options, so they are getting more demanding in terms of accountability, reach and results."