The State of Knife Magazines & the Web, Part II

Winds a blowing

In Part I of this series, we established our traditional print knife mags are primarily using their websites to generate new subscriptions for their print mags. Then we introduced potential problems they face if they give Web users what they want, while trying to maintain their content for their print editions.

Today, we want to look at the some other winds that are blowing against these print magazines and how they will be forced to change their business models, if they are to survive in today’s Web-oriented society.

Magazines Revenue Hit Hard

As reported in the New York Times, American magazines lost ad revenue- significant revenue, 58,340 pages worth of ad pages in 2009. Between 08 & 09, magazines lost, on average, one-quarter of their ad pages.

Is this decline a function of advertisers shifting their marketing dollars elsewhere or simply a result of their cutting back due to the economy? Don’t know, but it hit magazines hard either way.

Even the famous Sports Illustrated Magazine’s Swim Suit Edition has been impacted by all this-

The 2009 swim suit edition had 1.1 million readers, which is down from 1.5 million. The magazine had 70 print ads, which is 1/3 of the ad pages it usually runs. The President of the firm is talking about how they are using “new” channels (READ: THE WEB) for this edition’s “content.”

Many magazines also lowered their per-copy subscription prices to offset the loss in circulation.

Nate Ives in AdvertisingAge Magazine February 5, 2010 edition states,

“Nearly two-thirds of 344 magazines analyzed dropped their per-copy subscription prices between 2002 and the first half of 2009, but nearly 75% of those price-choppers also saw individually paid subscriptions decline anyway, according to an analysis of Audit Bureau of Circulations reports by Jack Hanrahan, the media-agency veteran who’s now an industry consultant and publisher of the CircMatters newsletter.”

Before we simply assume, “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” We must ask- “Are we witnessing a shift in what consumers want today?”

We Develop New Habits-

There is no doubt consumers’ habits are changing. More folks get their news and information online today than ever before. And I am certain the younger generations are already accustomed to using the Web as their primary source of information & entertainment.

We are in the Instant Information Age. We want news real-time, as it’s happening. We want information when we, the consumers, want it. The Web provides for both of these demands. Waiting on a monthly magazine to come out can be frustrating if the information is time sensitive. If it is not, and the articles are simply informational, then it is a function of if that information is exclusive, or is it provided elsewhere, like on the Web.

Form, Function and Place

MRI (Mediamark Research & Intelligence) MEDIA CONSUMPTION PATHWAYS IN AN EVOLVING WORLD reports-

“Ritual and current day passion for new media aside, there are some pragmatic reasons that arose within all of the generational groups that determine a reader’s choice of online versus offline. Much of print’s strength comes from the obvious portability and practicality in the commute as well as in the bathroom. Many talked about reading in bed. On the other hand, many of our participants spend a portion of their day in front of a computer, for work, school and recreation. Grabbing a few headlines in a short break at work is far less conspicuous than reading a newspaper or magazine.”

New Technology Helps Creates New Habits

How many folks subscribe to RSS Feeds or surf the Web on their phones today? I think you’d be surprised actually and the invention of Apple’s iPhone catapulted us into mobile computing unlike any other technology gadget.

So what does all this mean? It means it is becoming the norm to access the web everywhere, so the argument of “taking a pub to the bathroom because it is portable” is not as relevant.

Don’t like to stare at a small screen?- I hear ya. Pretty hard to see that Johnny Stout custom starting at it on your blackberry or iPhone isn’t it? So, isn’t that screen-size limitation going to deter folks from reading Web-content and will end up keeping the print mags safe for a while longer? Hold on there. Not so fast-

New Generation of Web Readers

Fast forward to portable media devices, like Amazon’s Kindle. The Kindle is a handheld device for reading e-books bought from Amazon. My 14-year-old daughter loves hers.

Apple's iPad

Last month, Apple announced the iPad for mobile websufing and its screen is the size of a regular print magazine. It is not targeting power uses either, but the folks who are computer users by virtue of their phones.

That’s right. Web content is mobile now, even without the smartphones.

In fact, an article on Seeking Alpha came out today showing that the website of the New York Times, the nation’s most popular newspaper, received 75 million page views from smartphones and the iPod just in the month of December 2009 and how the iPad is better than for reading the nytimes.com. Their website is already as popular as their print edition.

And you know what? Your wrist won’t hurt cause there isn’t a mouse. It’s a touch screen instead. And curling up on the couch? No prob. These babies are highly portable.

The Hearst Corp just announced its electronic device for reading newspapers and magazines. It’s called the Skiff Reader.

If this new electronic platform is too George Jetson and you have doubts if they will ever take off? Consider this-

Magazine Publishing Biggies- Conde’ Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp and Time announced in Dec. 09 a joint venture to develop a digital storefront for consumers to enjoy their favorite magazine content on portable digital devices.

“For the consumer, this digital initiative will provide access to an extraordinary selection of engaging content products, all customized for easy download on the device of their choice, including smartphones, e-readers and laptops,” explained John Squires, the venture’s interim managing director.

The digital initiatives underway by the leading publishers are staggering. The Atlantic Magazine, for example, announced in December 09, it was joining with Amazon for its magazine to be downloaded and read on the Kindle. And yet, the biggest buzz for the print media industry is the development of iPhone and iPad apps for content delivery.

Are consumers now using a new medium for content delivery because they want to or is the invention of web readers an attempt by a handful of companies to change our reading habits to online vs print?

The Skiff Web Reader- Not only highly portable, but also flexible.

The way I see it the answer doesn’t matter because in the end- we will change our habits and at some point- sooner or later- we’ll all be reading online as the norm.

Bottom-line

So, what does all this mean for our traditional print knife magazines? Your guess is as good as mine, but I say the publishing industry is changing, either out of necessity, or survival, or in anticipation of future demand. Many are now trying to get ahead of the curve as we speak.

And if you think knife pictures don’t look as good on the Web as they do in the glossy mags, then you haven’t check out SharpByCoop.com lately.

All I have to say is our knife magazines better take heed cause it is not a matter of if, only when.

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Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 10:52 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Good article!!
    Lots of info/data!!

    I still read books at night while I ma lying in bed. It’s just not the same reading abook on screen
    Not sure why
    Maybe it’s flipping back the pages or something like that
    I subscribe to Knifeworld
    I occasionally pick up Blade if I am at a bookstore or something

    I do think that magazines are on the way out
    Not sure if the current trend can be reversed….

  2. Thanks Trent.

    I agree- the younger gens already read online, primarily, so as they get older and us old guys die off, the norm will be reading content online; mags are going online and early adopter publishers are pioneering the way; we are already seeing subs and ad $ for the print editions shrinking- it is just a matter of time, for most.

    Does that mean every mag will be forced online? Probably not. We still listen to radio shows, don’t we? :)

    Niche’ mags with cult followings will probably be fine through our kid’s lifetime, but the overhead is greater with printing, paper and postage- seems to me.

    But if the readers of, Knife World, for example, who tend to be the older demo die off and the younger guys don’t re-populate their subscriber base, then there you go. At least online they could kinda rebrand and attract new customers/readers/fans/subscribers.

  3. Hi Scott, Thank you so much for this additional info in Part II. It is so hard for us older people to keep up with the norm,this information helps us out. I try every day to “keep up with the curve”, but as everything changes soo fast, it is a tough job! Keep that good info coming! Thanks again for a job well done. “Lonewolf”

  4. Thanks Lonewolf
    Things do change fast, don’t they? Some for the good, others not :)

    I’ll admit, I love to get these mags and hope they will always be around…I think they will for my lifetime anyway.

  5. Hey Scott,
    Great article, you should do market research on the side.

    Even considering how much time as I spend every day on the web, I still prefer to pick up a nice magazine or book. Somehow, the words and their meanings make it off the traditional printed page and into my mind easier than they do when I’m reading from a screen. (OK, I’m in my 50s and I need reading glasses).

    Of course having the time to pick up a magazine is a bit of a luxury. I currently have 2 tall stacks of publications that I am going to get to “soon”.

    As far as where the market for publications is actually headed, I think Dorthy hit the nail on the head when she said “We’re not in Kansas anymore”.

    We are certainly in new territory and “times, they are a changing”.

    However, it is somewhat comforting to recall that back in the day when color films were first introduced, there were many people who thought that black and white images were going to be a thing of the past. From their point of view, everything in the future was going to be in vivid color. Today, black and white images are still incredibly popular.

    Now the use of film to create those images,… That’s another story. Who would have ever thought that B&W pictures would stay, but film would go?

    Derek

    • Thanks Derek-
      The mag industry is going online- now whether that means they’re going to stop publishing the print editions or not, I don’t know. Time will tell, but the good news for you is, as far a knife mags, you’ll be able to get a copy to hold probably through the rest of your lifetime.


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