The Resilience of the Printed Magazine Explained

Pat Henry of What They Think recently interviewed CDS Global’s Malcolm Netburn about the magazine industry. His aim was to get Netburn’s take on why the magazine industry is so resilient, with hundreds of new launches happening in a time when the industry is facing huge challenges.

Netburn gives some intriguing answers.

Henry began by asking why—when magazines are under intense advertising, circulation and even editorial pressures—are we still seeing hundreds of new titles launching this year? What accounts for the resilience of the printed magazine medium?

“The resilience in remarkable,” Netburn agrees.

“What makes it resilient is consumer demand for great curated and compelling content and information. I think that in this world where content has become so ubiquitous, and it’s everywhere you look, it’s actually even more important for somebody to take the leap and say ‘I’m going to put out a magazine on a subject that I know a great deal about and my editors and writers know a lot about, and that we believe in.’”

“Audiences are still hungry for that,” continues Netburn, “even as we have 24/7 access to information.”

On the flip side, there are precious few businesses in which an entrepreneur can start up something like a magazine without enormous capital investment in facilities, equipment and staff. Netburn explains that because magazines have fewer barriers to entry they are an attractive business model to something with passion and interest in a topic, even though the magazine industry itself is in flux.

“Beware of conventional wisdom,” he urges, noting that hundreds of new titles are launching and doing well at a time when many predicted the magazine industry should be well on its way to dead.

Henry followed up with an intriguing question that’s been our minds too: What is a magazine in 2014? What media ingredients must it have to be called a magazine?

“The short answer to that is that magazines have to be brands,” answered Netburn. “They cannot define themselves by ink on paper, by an app on the iPad, as a mobile location of content. They have to define themselves as a brand, something that people will believe in.

“And whatever expression of that content,” Netburn continues, “whether it’s paper, whether it’s an app, a blog, that somebody will say ‘ah, I recognize this brand, and I know that this brand is going to deliver to me something which no one else can deliver.’”

Click for the full video interview here.