Periodical Publishing in a Down Economy

Two weeks ago, in my post, Green Publishing, I mentioned that the trend in magazine publishing is to migrate to non-printed forms of distribution (such as email, PDF files, and online reading) in order to reduce costs.  While I see this transformation as spanning many years or even decades for most publications, I also noted that the recession is accelerating this trend.

The reason is that almost all printed media (magazines and newspapers) are mostly or completely dependent on advertising for the revenue they need to produce their product.  When advertising revenue falls, it becomes harder to cover the costs of each issue.  When this occurs, they reduce the number of pages.  Fewer pages means lower costs and the potential to still make money or at least break even.  For several of the magazines that I read (and especially newspapers), the page count has been decreasing in recent months.

Another sign that a publication is having trouble is when they miss their publish date.  This happens when they haven’t sold enough ads to justify printing any size issue.  That just happened to one of the magazines that I regularly read; they were several weeks late.  I don’t expect them to be around much longer.

The final sign is that they merely eliminate an issue, giving them more time to sell ads for the following issue.

Typically, publications that market leaders are not affected too much during difficult economies, but secondary titles are.  The above example is one such case.

(Happily, I have not had to take any of these steps with the two magazines that I publish; one is staying even and the other has been growing — so readers need not worry!)

What do you think? Please leave a comment!