BoSacks Speaks Out: Is this the End of an Era for the Magazine Industry?

By Bob Sacks on November 20, 2017

BoSacks Speaks Out:  I know the author of What does the departure of four top editors say about the future of magazines, Cable Neuhaus. The two of us had dinner a few years ago in New York City, where we exchanged ideas. He is smart, experienced and has great perspective, much of it from longevity on the publishing playing field. He writes a great heartfelt missive here about the magazine business. He says: 

"In short, magazines have been my love and my livelihood nearly all my adult life. It affords me zero pleasure to observe their slow, steady decline. I cherish them, but I cannot look you in the eye and pretend that those of us who make and joyously consume magazines are not an abysmally small club these days." 

My friend Cable and too many others mistake a change in dominance for death. Loss of dominance is not equivalent to death-it just feels that way.  I believe that there are ever-present super opportunities here today and an on-going era of great publishing expansion.  That would be the expansion of the media world, delivered by multiple methods to various devices, only one of which is paper. 

Here is where the disconnect comes from. In the old days - and what guys like Cable and I remember - the traditional publisher owned and controlled his own medium. Whether it was printed paper or on the airwaves, the traditional revenue stream was paid for by the advertiser. The advertiser needed that rare and hard to achieve platform of a large readership that traditional publishers provided.   This relationship, which used to pay for everything, has been totally and brutally disrupted. It will, of course, never return to the way it was. Fine, it's about time we got over it. 

The truth is that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of publishers doing great these days. Admittedly not all, but Darwin allows for this in his publishing handbook. Those that adapt to the business conditions at hand have a great chance of survival, while those who can't adapt retire from the jungle. 

In keeping with the wilderness metaphor, I wrote years ago that there are times of feast and times of famine. We have gone through a long period where it was relatively easy to feast on the available products in the print food chain.  Advertisers and readers were plentiful, and the system could support a wide range of diverse and unusual species. But, having grown up in times of plenty, not all of us are prepared for times of famine.The giant Newsasaurus Rex like Time Inc. is becoming extinct right before our eyes.  And it is in times like these that the giants fall first. The true survivors, and there are many thousands, will be the nimble, fleet of foot and niche scavengers. 

I say that today, right now, is the next golden age of publishing. All you have to do is to compete with your rivals smartly and in totality -  across all markets, and all platforms. I know and speak to many successful publishers that are doing just that. Carving out publishing empires, not on the bones of past giants, but in and on their own modern terms.  

By Bob Sacks| November 20, 2017

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Bob Sacks

Bob Sacks

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