FIPP President Sees a Good Year Ahead for the Print Magazine Industry

“I think it’s going to be a pretty good year, actually.”

That’s what FIPP’s new President and CEO James Hewes had to say in a recent interview with Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni.

“It’s funny you know, ever since I took this job I’ve been hearing more and more people telling me about the resurgence of print magazines and how print magazines are coming back as a medium,” Hewes continued.

When he took the head job at FIPP this past summer, Hewes took the helm of an organization dedicated to helping its members navigate the world of media content. Not an easy feat in this rapidly evolving landscape, but lately he’s seeing quite a bit of enthusiasm around print.

While acknowledging that circulation and ad figures are still down from historic highs, he wonders “if 2018 might be the first year where things start to show signs of recovery, because there are certainly some signs that for the quality magazines and for the specialist magazines in particular, that their feeling as businesses and their feeling as brands is that they’re still quite positive about the future.”

His sentiments echo what we’ve been seeing of late. Along with the rise of niche and specialist titles, Hewes notes that readers are searching for trust, and increasingly finding that in print, not digital.

“Toward the end of this year there has been an enormous amount of press coverage of the lack of trust in digital advertising and the problems that seem to be existing in the supply chain of digital advertising,” Hewes notes. This, he believes, will help magazine advertising rebound, as brands realize they can’t build trust on digital platforms alone.

He doesn’t pull any punches on the challenges the industry still faces, yet sees encouragement in some interesting places.

“Single-copy sales for me remains a great missed opportunity in a lot of markets,” he notes. “It’s interesting, I was reading a piece recently about Bauer in the U.S., and it may have even been from yourself, talking about the success that they’ve had on the newsstand in the U.S. And that’s really because they’ve taken the lessons they learned in Germany, where newsstand is an actually predominant distribution method, and applied them to their relatively neglected U.S. market, and have had a huge amount of success.”

He’s savvy enough to realize that a lot of the former powerhouse magazines – the highly general lifestyle and entertainment magazines – have seen a good deal of their content migrate online and “that’s probably never going to come back. And those were very high margin businesses, very profitable businesses for most companies. And that’s where I think a lot of this misunderstanding about the death of magazines comes from; the idea that just because you’ve lost your largest, most profitable category your industry as a whole is destroyed, but it’s not.”

Indeed, as consumer preferences swing from mass market to niche, publishers are finding terrific success with niche and special interest titles, supporting their audiences in their choice of content and platform. As Hewes settles into his new role, we wish much success. And yes, we agree, 2018 is going to be a pretty great year.