In Circ: Trying to keep up

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
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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