In Circ: Trying to keep up

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Last week was a dramatic one for the print industry. Breathless reports of “bloodbaths,” “axing” and other Halloween-appropriate clichés clogged the newswires as falling revenues encouraged some major publishers to slim down staffs and cut back frequencies.


A brief round-up of the bad news: the Washington Post Co. saw its Q3 income fall 85%; Condé Nast reduced Men's Vogue to a twice-a-year frequency, cut Portfolio from 12 to 10 annual issues and trimmed staff at both titles; American Express Publishing cut a reported 22 jobs across departments; Time Inc. restructured in a move that eliminated around 600 staffers, or about 6% of the company's worldwide staff; and McGraw-Hill Companies, publisher of BusinessWeek, cut 270 jobs company-wide — 140 of which were from its media and information division. 


However, with all the drama of lost jobs and dwindling funds, a lot of good news was ignored. New magazines continued to launch, and the magazine industry continued its efforts to adapt to the new economy. Time Inc. didn't slim its staff for nothing, after all: a massive restructuring of the business, which reorganized its 100+ titles predicated the staff changes there.


In other good news, “Mr. Magazine” Samir Husni reported that at least 52 new magazines with a 4x-or-higher yearly frequency were launched in September and October. Husni noted that in September – October 2007, only 36 such titles launched. October 2008 saw 74 new titles overall, including Edible Manhattan, KidSpirit and Luxe.


Magazines, like many other industries, are facing huge challenges right now. Consumers are reluctant to buy, costs of production and shipping are higher, and new technology makes it more difficult to reach a large audience through a single channel. But publishing, like any other business, can adapt. Whether it will adapt depends on industry leaders, workers and consumers. Sticking to the old models and predicting doom at every step do not a healthy industry make, but if these key players remain supportive, we can expect to see sleeker, more engaging and just plain better magazines in our mailboxes well into the future.


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