Survival Rates and the State of the Magazine Industry

survival-rates-magsMore new magazines are surviving longer than they were ten years ago…is it time to start celebrating?

Behind every stat there’s a story.

Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni keeps a careful eye on magazine publishing stats, faithfully noting the number of new launches each month. An unapologetic magazine fan (he’s one of us), he loves debunking the doomers and sharing hard data on launch figures.

His article from last week is no exception: “Study Shows An Increase in Survival Rates of Magazine Launches 2006 – 2015.”

The data shows that survival rates for new launches are going up, Husni notes, saying: “Almost two out of every ten [17%] of new magazines launched ten years ago are still in business today.  That rate of survival has been the domain of magazines launched four years ago.  The survival rate after four years is now at three out of ten titles remain in business.”

Still, the 10-year survival rate is below average for businesses across the board. According to Ryan Jorden in his article on business survival rates, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says:  “About half of all new establishments survive five years or more and about one-third survive 10 years or more.”

It’s always been a challenging industry, and always will be. Are these rates something to celebrate? It all depends on how you look at it.

“These are not numbers I am comfortable with broadcasting as the proof of the sustainability of the print universe,” industry expert Bob Sacks writes in a recent newsletter.

What does make him optimistic about print’s future is the fact that statistics “don’t give an accurate picture on an individual basis.

“Business is, at the end of the day, about winners and losers. We keep score with spreadsheets and bottom lines,” Sacks explains. “There have always been death and destruction in the magazine business, but there also have always been winners.  Perhaps that is Samir’s point. That in this digital age of communication adjustment, the print community still has some winners, even if it’s at the low 17 percent survival level.”

“The bottom line truth,” Sacks continues, “is that you have to give the readers what they want, on the substrate that they want, when they want it, and at that precise moment in time. Simple really. Just total excellence in every part of your enterprise executed every day, every month and every year. Is that so hard?”

I have to chuckle; it’s a tough industry, no doubt. And there’s still plenty of room for success; however you define it.

What’s really encouraging to me is the launch rate; the total number of launches, which dropped dramatically in 2007 and 2008 along the rest of the economy, is now close to pre-recession levels. More publishers are feeling optimistic about their business opportunities, and more magazines are coming to market. That, from any point of view, is the real good news here.