Bitesize Content and the Magazine Blowback

What’s the difference between a magazine and a successful magazine these days?  Reema Khrais writing in Marketplace set out to discover the answer.

“Every year, dozens of magazines fold their print editions,” Khrais notes. “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.”

So is it really the end for the magazine industry?

No way, notes Samir Husni. “There are at least four times more titles in the marketplace than there was in 1978,” he said to Khrais.

What are in danger, Husni notes, are titles that are giving themselves away too cheaply and relying on an outdated advertising model. The future of the industry, he believes, is based on excellent content that isn’t easily translatable to digital. What’s on the outs, he says, is mass market celebrity gossip and tabloid news, which has easily converted to social media platforms.

Mass market celebrity gossip and tabloid news, which has easily converted to social media platforms, is the magazine content most at risk, according to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni.

“People are willing to pay for content they deem important, it’s curated content,” Husni said, citing the popularity of bookazines and their hefty price tags.

Solid brand identity also sets apart the titles that are thriving, according to Doug Kouma of Meredith Core Media.

“Today, some of the most successful magazines are hyper focused. It’s not just about fishing, it’s about salt-water fishing. And it’s not just about healthy eating, ‘its 100 fast meals for people with diabetes,’” Kouma told Khrais.

According to Kraish, Kouma says that in order to succeed in this market, a magazine must have strong brand identity. His company launched The Magnolia Journal, playing off the success of HGTV’s hit show “Fixer Upper.”

“When the first issue hit the shelves late last year, Kouma said retailers sold out of the 400,000 copies so quickly that the publisher had to go back to press to print 200,000 more,” Kraish notes.

It’s this strong affinity with your target audience that spells success now. Condé Nast, while moving Self and some other titles to an exclusively digital platform, is also launching new titles in print.

“There is something extraordinarily alluring about a glossy magazine, the physical quality,” said Condé Nast’s Nicholas Coleridge last spring. Their new titles (like Salt, a partnership with Swarovski crystal) truly take advantage of this aspect of print’s luxurious future.

Publishers need to understand that digital can easily replace magazine content this is quick, easy and light to consume. In fact, it’s perfect fodder for smartphones, and leaves little to recommend it to a full blown print strategy.

Depth, connection, and engagement, on the other hand,  still have a bright future in the glossy world. It isn’t digital that spells death for magazines, but publishers who fail to adapt not just their business models but their editorial strategies.