Magazines: How Print Is Surviving The Digital Age

By: Steven McIntosh

Print sales have been declining for several years as readers find their content online - but now, something unusual is happening.

When was the last time you bought a magazine?

The answer is likely to depend on whether you prefer reading about Theresa May or Taylor Swift.

Magazine sales have generally been falling since the day the inventor of the internet said: "Hey, why don't I invent the internet?"

But the latest ABC figures, released this week, show that sales of certain titles are actually going up.

News and current affairs magazines are becoming more popular - but celebrity, gossip and fashion publications are still struggling.

It's a trend that Sarah Penny, editor of Fashion Monitor, puts down to the news agenda.

"I think that we can all agree that the past 18 months have been pretty tumultuous within current affairs," she says.

"With the likes of Brexit and Trump's election, the unsettled nature of society drives readers to seek out factual news and understand the effects on the economy for themselves from reputable titles that have an authoritative voice."

The titles that seem to be benefiting from this Trump bump include The Economist and The Spectator.

Between January and June this year both sold more per issue than they did in the same period in 2016.

Take a look at some celebrity, gossip and fashion titles, and the opposite is true.

Going down

  • Look - weekly sales down 35% year on year to 59,390
  • Now - down 20.8% to 86,838
  • Closer - down 19.8% to 196,126
  • Heat - down 16.6% to 120,175
  • Grazia - down 13.4% to 110,031

Also losing sales: Star (down 14.3%) Vanity Fair (10%), Marie Claire (6%), OK!(3.5%) and Vogue (3%).

Going up

  • Prospect - up 37.2% to 44,545
  • The Spectator - up 11.3% to 85,429
  • Private Eye - up 8.6% year on year to 249,927 per issue
  • The Economist - up 5% to 248,196

In the early noughties Heat magazine was an absolute bible for showbiz news junkies looking for their fix of Big Brother and Britney Spears.

But these days it's more about Kylie and Kendall - and they tend to use Instagram rather than ink to connect with their fans.

"Gossip and celebrity tittle-tattle is rarely something that requires detailed analysis - so it's best suited to bite-sized content that zips around on social media," says Ian Burrell, media columnist for the i paper and The Drum.

"Once it's out there, it's quickly shared and readers move on to the next morsel. No-one wants to wait a week to read about it in a print magazine."

Penny adds: "With the competition from digital media, vlogs, blogs and podcasts, readers are finding that their thirst for the content covered in the celebrity weeklies can be satisfied elsewhere for free and with ease online."

The way some quality newspapers and magazines have been able to survive in recent years is by introducing paywalls on their online content.

Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, wrote this week: "A big change is taking place in the market. There's now too much writing online, and in an era of fake news, where you get your analysis from has never been more important."

"As newspapers and magazines are finding out, if you can publish writing that is consistently and significantly better than what can be found online, people will pay."

But many editors are struggling to strike the right balance between physical and digital content.

They are faced with the choice of either posting all their articles online for free so the magazine stays relevant, or charging readers money to protect the financial future of the brand.

Earlier this week - US Vogue marked its 125th anniversary issue with a new interview and photo shoot with Jennifer Lawrence - one of the top film stars in the world.

Sounds like a good read, right? But the whole interview was also posted online by the magazine, removing any incentive for a fan to buy a paper copy.

"When you have major free news sites - such as Mail Online, The Sun and the Daily Mirror - pumping out celebrity and entertainment words, video and entire photo shoots around the clock, it's hard to see how a magazine is going to find it easy to charge readers for something that's likely to be offering stale news and limited pictures," Burrell says.

"At best, a celeb mag will be bought as a treat for the reader, which makes it a dispensable purchase in comparison to the high-quality news analysis publication providing information that its readers regard as valuable and essential."

Both Private Eye and The Spectator are seeing their circulation levels reach record highs - although The Spectator has been aided by the way subscribers of both formats are counted twice - a trend they probably didn't predict when they launched their websites.

But as Burrell points out: "Many readers are hungry for a deeper understanding of the fast-moving changes in global news and politics rather than seeking to escape from it by burying their heads in celebrity gossip and entertainment stories."

Serious times call for serious journalism, and an extraordinarily frantic news agenda over the past year - with Brexit, Trump, a snap election, terror attacks and Grenfell Tower - has driven sales boosts for upmarket titles.

This is because their intelligent take on events is a unique selling point. Whereas general-interest daily news has been turned into an almost universally available commodity by the internet, specialist journalism - from the unforgiving wit of Private Eye to the proud wonkery of Prospect - is still a service people value and think they can't get elsewhere.

The internet is full of celebrity drivel, so print magazines who focus on the rich and famous will need to find something unique if they are to retain paying audiences.

That something is what editors are paid to conjure up.

Author: Steven McIntosh

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5 Shiny New Print Magazines That Prove Paper's Still in Fashion

By: Ann Huyck

The smell of the paper, the stain of the ink: when’s the last time you leafed through a print magazine?

Yes, your tablet lets you take hundreds of novels on holiday, but just like vinyl, indie print mags continue to grace coffee tables all over the world.

The last decade has seen the rise of amazing titles like The GentlewomanLittle White Lies, and Elephant.

Monocle even carved a new niche, shaping what it means to be a multimedia behemoth today.

Print isn’t dead. Its fans are as passionate as ever, with exciting new publications launching every year.

So as we at The Memo wave farewell to Future Media month, let’s acknowledge the printed word lives on.

These 5 spangly new print magazines from the last year (ish) that prove print’s still in fashion…. 

LYRA, launched June 2016

Are you a feminist? Hell yeah you are. Then you’ll probably love LYRA, the quarterly print magazine that serves up “a bold feminine perspective on society, politics and the arts”.

Founder Georgina Gray shrugs off the idea that her magazine should be ‘just for women’. Instead it’s for anyone who enjoys wide-ranging engaging content.

Expect journalistic digging, thoughtful essays, and creative writing – and a stunning array of photography and illustration throughout.

5054, launched April 2017

Are you a car lover who thinks the ‘petrol head’ stereotype is getting a bit tired? Then 5054will feel like a breath of fresh air.

Reinventing what you’ve come to expect of the automotive magazine, this pops the hood on the industry and revels in oil-slick corners that have long been overlooked.

With beautiful illustrations of the world’s most important vehicles, and insightful content from the people who surround them, prepare to go on a journey.

Season, launched May 2016

Football and fashion are not mutually exclusive – 25% of fans attending the Premier League are women, after all.

Now Season is here for those who love beautiful design and the beautiful game.

Often exploring this intersection through a focus on female football fans, every story you read somehow seems more inspiring than the next.

“We are often overlooked or sexualised in the football landscape so I wanted to document and celebrate female fandom creatively,” editor Felicia Pennant said of the launch.

Sofa, launched July 2016

Curious about the future? Well – as well as reading The Memo – you should subscribe to Sofa.

A wry, witty exploration of cutting edge culture – this is for trend-followers who need to know their Gen Xs from their Gen Zs.

With a debut issue that featured a 16-year-old guest editor, no topic is too taboo, cool, stigmatised, or controversial for Sofa.

Embrace the digital world in a physical form.

Unbuilt Magazine, launched April 2016

We’re used to reading interviews with musicians in magazines. But what about a magazine published by them?

Unbuilt founder Tom Bejgrowicz has partnered up with D. Randall Blythe (vocalist of Lamb of God), Alex Skolnick (Testament guitarist) and singer Alissa White-Gluz to build his new lifestyle publication.

You can expect musical discussion – from heavy metal to broadway – but also articles on art, activism, travel, and food – as its editors draw on experiences from touring around the world.

The latest issues have been hand-signed by Mötley Crüe songwriter Nikki Sixx, and $1 from every sale is donated to charity.

Written By: Ann Huyck

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The Changing Profile of Women's Magazines

By: Cable Neuhaus

The role of women’s books has been shifting because the role of women in society has been shifting. Long time coming, but finally. That’s not exactly headline news. What the traditional books like Good HousekeepingFamily Circle and their venerable sisters dish up every several weeks still resonates with a sizable and enthusiastic audience — that’s not to be dismissed, don’t get me wrong — but times have changed.

Laundry, linens, LBDs, and linguini recipes, while interesting in their own right, are of lesser importance to many women these days.

All of which has afforded space in the magasphere for books that address women in a different way, at a more profound level. These magazines go right at elemental wants and needs that are largely apart from matters of homemaking.

Oprah’s magazine, O, may have been the first of these books to acknowledge the complex multi-dimensionality of American women. There have been others. Real Simple embodies at least some of the same traits. (Alas, More, after a good run, has just quit print. It’s tough out there.)

But a quick glance at any major newsstand reveals that, to a large extent, the “Women’s” section remains a kind of ghetto of 20th Century-think. The heart-and-soul stuff is still being ignored. As the Commander in Chief is fond of tweeting out, “Sad.”

Fortunately, we now see an uptick in the number of books that approach women as creatures who care less about me-me-me, and more about meaning. Less about celebrities, more about celebrating. They are the un-Cosmopolitans, the flip side of Glamour and InStyle and Woman’s World.

I don’t have a snappy name for this category. Broadly speaking, their premise is that a certain class of women have an abiding desire to connect with their creative, soulful impulses.

I’ve found about 10 books that make this their principal editorial mission. They’re pretty easy to spot. First of all, they are expensive. Average point-of-purchase price seems to be north of $15 — Starbucks double-latte venti territory and then some. You’ll quickly part ways with a hundred bucks if you want to put an armful in your bag.

There are reasons for the steep cover price. First of all, most of these books seem to be coming to America from abroad. (Shocked? I’m not.) Secondly, the books are beautifully and expensively produced — each more or less a work of art in its own right. They are intended to be keepers. How do we know this? Well, some include a bookplate on the opening page. How often do you see that in a magazine, eh?

I imagine these lovely magazines are published in small batches, which seems appropriate. In essence, they represent the ascendant artisanal trend in our business.

Their readers (including men of a certain sensibility too, I suppose) dote over paper. They derive satisfaction from touching it, pawing it, smelling the scent of it, folding it artfully in a million different ways. You are invited to fondle these books. They are vaguely sensual. No, make that boastfully sensual. Most contain tip-ins, pull-outs, posters, pockets and other surprises meant to delight.

As I see it, they lay out for their readers a specific hierarchy of how life’s journey ought, ideally, to unfold: peace over prosperity, joy over jobs, creativity over catatonia.

In each instance, the taglines pretty much nail it.

Some examples from the books I picked up the other day:

Daphne’s Diary — “a magazine full of inspiration and style”

Flow — “celebrating creativity, imperfection and life’s little pleasures”

Breathe — “make time for yourself”

Project Calm — “mindfulness through making”

As if to underscore its insistence on standing apart from the madding crowd, Flow says in a cover burst that it is “A Magazine That Takes Its Time.”

Like others in this newly emerging category, Flow is filled with photographs and illustrations that encourage readers to relax. To find themselves … over time. The book is brilliantly edited. One might liken it to touring a fabulous museum.

There is also a call to action in these books, which sets them apart from most women’s magazines — most magazines of any type. They establish protocols for changing life’s pace, for making things (often out of paper, which is supplied), for living less zestfully but more zenfully.

Our era is stressful and “shaky,” say the co-editors of Flow in their latest editorial. The answer is to somehow embrace the tumult, learn from it, and by so doing become a more creative and whole adult.

This is not for everyone, clearly. Some readers will reject the emphasis on a sort of intensely focused personal peace. There is no overt excitement in these pages, zero partying. (Note: surprisingly, these books don’t point to Buddhism, meditation, or yoga; they guide readers down other pathways.)

Midway through the current issue of Project Calm, one comes to a full stop at a section about weaving. The headline: “May your walls know joy; may every room hold laughter and every window open to great possibility.” There is a strong DIY element to Calm that may especially appeal to the arts-and-crafts set.

Daphne’s Diary, by contrast, counts more heavily on the spectacular curation skills of its staff. Imagine a hybrid of Pinterest, your Facebook feed, and the personal leather-bound journal of an artist.

Says “Daphne” (who, best as I can tell, may not be an actual person) in her current editor’s note: “Every evening, I write about my experiences that day in my diary. About five years ago, I came up with the idea of creating a kind of magazine full of wonderful things and this was the result.”

Publishers appear to be optimistic about growth in this category. The books I’ve mentioned here are branching out with line extensions and specials. Breathe recently produced a one-time special titled List Journal. Stampington and Company, a California outfit that publishes a line of magazines targeted at women, has launched Where Women Create. Think of it as a shelter magazine for readers who are, in the current parlance, woke. To quote Martha Stewart, who has edited some wonderful magazines of a certain kind, “That’s a good thing.”

Here’s hoping this trend continues. While I haven’t come up with a catchy marketing name for it, the underlying concept is in tune with our times. Books that talk to women who want a breather, and who choose to use their time to satisfy unmet creative impulses, are books that may well have a bright future.

Written By: Cable Neuhaus

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