Magazine Publishing Is About To Explode: A survivor’s guide for magazine lovers (and haters)

by Jeanniey Mullen

The ticking time bomb that has defined the intersection of print and digital publishing went off over the past few weeks. It’s not the fault of any executive, technology or business model. It’s simply the beginning of a new cycle of magazine content and delivery. It you love magazines, it’s all about discovery and great value right now. If you don’t like magazines, this explosion increases the chances that you just might change your mind.

Think about this: We’re coming off a week in which one of the world’s biggest publishing companies (Time Inc.) tried to sell its library to another of the world’s biggest publishing companies (Meredith). The deal fell apart. And in the same week, another global giant (News Corp) announced that its newly spun-off publishing division will get a $2.5 billion cash infusion, some of which will spawn a new WSJ.Money print magazine, and some of which will go to digital newspaper publishing.

This mass change, growth, and implosion is the reality for publishers over the next few years. It’s print vs. digital, and a game of survival of the fittest. Behind the scenes, some publishing executives are clinging to the vision that print will still be the best business magazine model for the right content and the right audience. And then others are seeing the dramatic changes with the long-term view that digital models will win out. This is happening faster than most people think.


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In the middle is one constant truth: Magazines want subscribers. And, the most profitable subscribers are those found on digital platforms. That’s why consumers have seen an uptick in aggressive ads for apps that represent a magazine, or an entire publishing company. It’s also why they have seen more aggressive efforts from iTunes, Google and even Zinio.

So how does this turn into a survival guide for the magazine lover? It’s a great time to be a magazine consumer. And believe it or not, it’s a great time to be a publisher.

Tip #1: You can find more: Essentially whatever interests you now has a digital magazine to go with it. Global barriers are gone. Auto fans can now find more than 500 magazines to fill their interest. Wedding fans can find over 150 choices digitally. All can be read on any device at hand.

Tip #2: Now reading can happen anywhere: Android, Blackberry, iPhone or PC. What device you have no longer matters. What does matter is, when you are in the middle of a conversation and want to show the person you are speaking to a visual example of what you need, you have a magazine’s newsstand right at your fingertips.

Tip #3: The savvy shopper gets the deal. While the digital magazine marketplace explodes, many publishers are making it even more attractive to try digital content by dropping prices. For example: Zinio recently launched our Spring Cleaning program, which gives consumers up to 50% off on a slew of design, decorating and gardening titles. You will see more of these kinds of deals available throughout the year, changing with the seasons.

Tip #4: New world meets old world.  Magazines, even in digital formats, offer something long forgotten by the web: long form editorial. And now, digital magazine publishers can marry that with Twitter feeds and other social networks, right inside the pages of a magazine. It’s pretty amazing.

Tip #5: Publishers are not sitting still for this. And this makes consumers happy.If you’re a publisher, it is a time of transition and on the other side of transition is opportunity. Sometimes we get caught up in the cool technology that allows content exploration, international editions and even the entire process that makes magazines accessible anywhere anytime. And lately we’re caught up in this print vs. digital debate. But when you look at the basics of what publishing companies are doing, it’s all about making content accessible. There’s an urgency to that process now because consumers are in flux. The business is in flux. Consumers are watching new subscription deals and new membership models come at them with speed and volume.

This time is fantastic for magazine consumers, publishers and even skeptics. At Zinio we are thrilled to be a vital part of it, but the most important thing is that we are making content available to the consumer as they want it, when they want it. Because after all it’s all about you, and you, the customer, are always right. Share your favorite digital magazine survival tips.