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Print Magazine Sales Plunge

Posted by tomwiles at 10:24 AM on August 7, 2013

Single-copy print magazine sales plunged by another 10% in the first half of 2013 according to the AAM’s (Alliance for Audited Media) 2013 half-year report. Extensive details can be found on their website here at this link to their report.

I remember back in the 1980′s subscribing to print magazines such as Stereo Review, Digital Audio & Compact Disc Review, Popular Photography, Videomaker Magazine, PC World, PC Computing, Hot CoCo, etc. I originally came into contact with most of the magazines I ended up subscribing to via magazine news stands.

Somewhere along the way my interest seemed to wain and I allowed those magazine subscriptions to drop. Looking back, it’s probable that the Internet itself via desktop computers started consuming the time that would otherwise default to reading magazines, which in turn caused me to lose interest and allow those magazine subscriptions to drop.

Today, I subscribe to the digital version of Mac Life via the Barnes & Noble Nook app. I might subscribe to more digital versions of magazines if I could find some I really liked on a consistent basis. Though many magazines offer digital 30 day trials, I’m not easily enticed to take the plunge.

With movies and TV shows Netflix offers unlimited streaming for thousands of movies and TV shows, akin to renting unlimited access to their giant ever-changing movie and TV catalog . Services such as Google Music are offering unlimited streaming and downloading of millions of MP3 files for a monthly fee, sort of akin to renting unlimited access to a huge chunk of all available music, including most of the latest stuff. Stop paying the subscription and the movies and music immediately go away.

If someone were to offer a monthly subscription to a large catalog of digital versions of magazines, I would probably bite if they were an appealing collection of magazines. I don’t know if the print magazine business is desperate enough yet to move to this sort of digital magazine stand subscription model, but looking at the successful trends set by Netflix, Amazon Prime Videos, and services such as Google Music, it seems to me the handwriting is on the wall for the magazine business.

Smartphone and tablet time are encroaching heavily on time that used to be spent with desktop and laptop computers, and that encroachment continues to accelerate. We are therefore turning into tablet and smartphone consumers. Apps with good content are what generate much of the appeal of tablets and smartphones. Tablets in particular can offer a good, clean digital magazine experience via apps. I believe there is an opportunity for the print business to close the circle and reinvent themselves as the right digital magazine news stand apps, offering all-you-can-eat subscription access to the right racks of digital versions of magazines. It will happen sooner or later. The process can be more or less painful for the magazine industry depending on how long they are able to remain in denial, and how much they drag their feet.

We are now tablet consumers. The new name of the game is going after my tablet time as that tablet consumer. Content creators and sellers are now competing with things like Angry Birds, Netflix, Amazon, various music services, etc.

Offer me a clean, all-you-can-eat, easy-to-use package to a large digital magazine stand where I can browse through and skim through articles and adds just like I can in the real world at a physical magazine stand, and I will subscribe.