Discovering Truth in the Magazine Racks

Huh. It’s happening just like we thought it might.

Late last year, I noted that consumers about had it with the unreliability of the “news” they found on digital and the never-ending rabbit hole of the non-stop news feed. They were becoming more discriminating about their sources, looking for real news amid the sea of questionable “reporting.” As they did so, it seemed natural that they would return to printed news media, and especially magazines.

This, I thought at the time, would be partly driven by push-back against fake news, and a search for trustworthy sources. Now, recent circulation numbers from the UK seem to bear this out.

“Magazine sales have generally been falling since the day the inventor of the internet said: ‘Hey, why don’t I invent the internet?’” writes Steven McIntosh in BBC News.

“But the latest ABC figures, released this week, show that sales of certain titles are actually going up,” he notes. While celebrity mags, gossip papers and other mass market titles are lackluster, “News and current affairs magazines are becoming more popular,” he notes.

We can thank the tumultuous political and social climate for that, as media brands like The Economist and The Spectator report good gains over 2016 numbers. Call it the Trump Bump – New York Times subscriptions were among those that surged after being called out as “fake news,” and the WSJ Magazine is thriving – the Brexit Bounce, or just a general awakening. What we are seeing is evidence in real time that consumers turn to print news media in uncertain times.

“Despite the overabundance of information and content available on the internet, there is an appetite for news content from trusted news brands,” wrote Jessica Patterson in FIPP last fall. And printed news media, especially magazines, fit the bill.

They may get the majority of their daily news from social sites and digital feeds, but research shows that consumers need and want something more substantial, with greater context and understanding. And they trust weekly news magazines to provide that deeper understanding.

“Serious times call for serious journalism, and an extraordinarily frantic news agenda over the past year – with Brexit, Trump, a snap election, terror attacks and Grenfell Tower – has driven sales boosts for upmarket titles,” McIntosh notes.