Maria Rodale on the Future of Magazines

[responsive]rodale[/responsive]At this month’s AMM conference, there was much talk about magazine publishers and how they are “redefining the industry as “magazine media companies.” While the jury is still out whether this is actually happening, the landscape has certainly changed.

One woman who knows this well is Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention, Men’s Health, Running Times and a host of other lifestyle magazines.

After the conference, Rodale gave her opinion of “what’s next” for magazine publishing as a guest contributor in the Huffington Post.

According to Rodale, “what the magazine industry really needs is fresh ideas on how to increase readership and revenue” and she goes on to give her thoughts on what those ideas might be.

Her list of the Top 10 things that could evolve this industry starts with personalization.

“Personalization in the magazine industry is not a new idea. I remember someone coming up with it at an offsite meeting in the early 1990s. Why has it taken us all so long? For example, as a travel lover, I would pay extra for newsletters (digital or print) or special editions that focus specifically on the areas of my interest. And if you ask me what they are I will tell you, and then you can sell that information to advertisers. This is not rocket science.”

She goes on to urge publishers to improve their customer service (“Why does my 8-year-old STILL have to wait six to eight weeks for the first issue of her magazine to arrive?”) and focus on quality and a richly engaging experience.

What we find most interesting is her opinion that it’s not the love of print that’s gone, but the business model that is broken.

“We as an industry have undervalued our products and overvalued ourselves. We’ve allowed our margins to be eaten away by everything from the Post Office to huge overheads and high expenses while giving away our best content for free. Somebody, somewhere (and soon) is going to figure this out and create a new business model,” Rodale insists.

Publishers, she notes, need to start believing in themselves again and having some fun. This is where we’ll engage real readers, and the advertisers who are hungry to connect with them.

Tell it, Maria.