Effects Of The Recession
Magazines and periodicals have been hit by the recession, in much the same way as most other businesses. However, the falling newsstand sales figures published by some of the bigger players don’t show the whole picture. For example, Bauer Media – publishers of FHM, Empire and other huge titles – revealed very positive sales on the majority of their brands from January to June, despite the general downturn.
What the news reports and commentary also don’t show is that long-term sales are still rising. A survey of 81 leading titles published last month by MediaPost showed that readership has increased by 8% since 2000 – and that specific men’s and women’s interest magazines have seen over 13% growth.
Surprisingly, very few of these figures take online readership and subscriptions into account. Given that the world becomes more connected every day, this would seem to be a massive oversight, but many publishers consider online readership less indicative of overall trends. Their belief is that too many of the site hits reported are one-off visitors and not regular readers.
In truth, this shows a lack of understanding more than anything else. With careful analysis, the one-off visits can be filtered out of the overall picture in much the same way as customers browsing the magazine stand, but not buying, are excluded from paper sales data. Unique, repeat visits can be identified. With RSS feed and online subscription data providing similar detail to real-world subscriptions, the information collected is comparable in quality with newsstand statistics.
Unfortunately, tracking those figures is not an easy task as there is little centralized reporting. The Audit Bureau releases paper sales figures regularly in the US, from over 500 participating publishers, but online data is not included. In the UK, ABC reports independently on the media industry and has recently been pressured – by the industry itself – to include Internet figures as part of ABCe, the electronic media division. How many publishers will be included remains unknown.
The important message in all this is that online publishing is still seen as being of secondary importance. While many of the smarter periodicals have already made the leap to the Internet and are receiving regular attention from a devoted readership, much of the industry remains stuck in the mud of paper publishing and concerns over falling newsstand receipts.
Spending on online advertising is now bigger than television advertising expenditure: surely that should be enough to convince even the biggest publisher that online readership is just as important.