It’s an industry in constant flux: New titles launch, digital counterparts are added to their flagship print sisters; formerly digital-only publications launch print editions, and somehow the industry analysts have to track it all. When counting it all up, what IS a magazine?
As Susan Currie Sivek writes in MediaShift, “It seems like a simple task: Keep track of new magazine launches, monitor the results, and see how much the industry grows and changes.”
“But when you start digging into that project in more detail, it gets complicated,” Sivek continues. “What qualifies as a magazine? (Yes, that question, again.) Which platforms ‘count?’ And the bigger concern: How do we capture and assess variety, innovation and success in the industry?”
To help understand what matters and what we should care about, Sivek interviewed three industry experts. While they all have different takes, they all agree on this: Print magazines are still the foundation for magazine media companies.
Samir Husni: Only Print Counts
For Samir Husni, aka Mr. Magazine, “only new print magazines truly matter,” notes Sivek, adding that Husni makes the point that a digital magazine without a print publication is worth little in financial terms.
“They have no monetary value. I don’t know of a single digital-only magazine since the iPad came out that’s making money, that has any source of revenue, if it doesn’t have a print counterpart,” Husni is quoted as saying.
For Husni, print magazines are what matters, and the industry is far from “dead.”
“Name one industry that gives as many births on its dying bed as the magazine industry,” Husni is quoted as saying. “If it’s really dying or dead, then I must be living in magazine heaven. I keep getting new magazines day after day.”
Trish Hagood: Count it All
“We include both print and online — including also the magazines that have dropped their print edition and gone online only,” said Trish Hagood said in a phone interview. “We’re already digitally oriented. We track ‘what is.’ We can’t necessarily predict what’s going to be.”
Their numbers come mainly from publishers themselves, who enter their own publication numbers into MediaFinder’s system. And she agrees with Husni on one key point: “Most companies can’t afford to do digital-only products because they don’t pay.”
Mary Berner: Look to Consumers
Sidestepping the print vs. digital debate, Mary Berner of the Association of Magazine Media says platform doesn’t count as much as consumer engagement.
“How would you measure success [for a digital-only magazine]? It’s consumer engagement, but there’s many ways to measure that. Is it unique visitors, is it traffic, is it subscriptions? It’s the Wild West,” Berner continued.
And, once again, it comes down to print as the ultimate measure of “making it.”
“Ask Huffington Post why they launched a print publication. Ask why celebrities pay for armies of publicists to get on the front page of print magazines,” Berner said, proving she understands that magazines — real magazines — are printed.
“People understand intuitively that there’s a longevity, a gravitas — it’s a different kind of connection. The experience of reading something in print registers differently in your brain.”