Journal publishers, take note — frequency is a dimension of your operation that is very much under threat.
You need look no further than the consumer magazine space, and three facts:
- The Grim Reaper at Magazine Death Pool has been very busy starting 2009, with more than 15 separate titles shutting down, not counting the implosion of DoubleDown Media after the Wall Street meltdown. Nearly all these titles were monthlies, or the modern version (10x/year or thereabouts).
- Samir Husni at MrMagazine.com notes that “magazine” titles are up in 2008 and 2009 from 1988. However, if you only count titles that are published 4x/year or more often, there has been a clear decline. What has made up for it are the special issues and editions published under magazine brands.
- Folio reported just the other day that two major consumer magazine wholesalers are shutting down. This puts more than 50% of newsstand distribution up in the air.
What does this all mean? I think it means that frequent, serialized publication is going away as the Internet becomes an even more pervasive and reliable resource for all kinds of information.
I like to think of the underlying cause as “deja news.” It’s the feeling I get when I pick up a newspaper and realize I read all the news stories the night before, online. It’s the feeling I get when I receive a copy of a journal and realize I’ve already received the email table of contents and browsed the articles I wanted. It’s the feeling I get when I receive a magazine and realize I’ve already heard about everything in it — perused comparable movie reviews, read the news, received updates on the scandals.
Yet, magazine brands and glossy special editions still work. They’ve increased by an 8x factor since 1988, and account for the growth in the sector.
People do value print, but in a different way and for different reasons than in the past. Observers of this space are watching readers adjust and the market follow.
Meanwhile, according to people in the printing industry, STM journals are swelling with pages. Online submissions have uncovered more good science, and editors have been loathe to reject it. So, they’re publishing it, making for fat print issues.
At least so far. With shrinking endowments and a dire economic climate, fat page budgets are likely going to go on a crash diet. It will be summer before we see the effects, but it’s coming.
Are you prepared to follow your customer? Respond to economic trends? Or will you hold on to a fading print model (fat and frequent)?
Or is this all “deja news” to you?