In a publishing landscape that is forever changed, both economically and technically, do print magazines continue to have relevance? Peter Osnos asks the straightforward question “Can print magazines save themselves?” in an article that appeared online in The Atlantic last week.
We like the question he posed, because we believe it is up to every publisher to figure out how to manage their business in light of the “new” world we all exist in. It takes the hand-wringing attitude out of the equation, and puts the onus squarely where it belongs – on the publishers themselves. As is true in any business, we adapt or we die.
Osnos remains a true fan of the printed magazine, even while waxing a bit nostalgic for the glory days: “The great era of magazines notable for their largesse to staffs, and replete with copious, handsome advertising and strong single-copy newsstand sales, is almost certainly in the past.”
Yet he realizes those days will not return. “The precipitous drop in print advertising for most magazines in recent years is probably irreversible by now, and it is too soon to judge that the focus on revenue from their digital multi-media displays will make up the difference.”
So what is his advice to publishers? Quite simply, make the magazines worth a higher selling price.
“To begin with, their quality has to be maintained,” stresses Osnos. “My favorites [The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist, The Nation, The New York Review of Books and New York] have all continued to do superb work in the midst of an ongoing struggle to stay financially viable while their web models gain traction.”
Will this idea fly with readers? Osnos believes so.
“The fact is that digital delivery, which we regard as indispensable, is expensive. Why is it assumed that a certain number of readers won’t pay more to keep getting print publications that they value?” asks Osnos.
We liken it to the success of HBO and other premium television channel. If the content is rich enough, then yes, people will pay. Surely a challenging shift of perspective for publishers, but an idea whose time has very likely come.