Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why Some Print-Turned-Web Magazines Can't Last

Yesterday, I wrote about print magazines turning to Web-only publishing. It must seem like a good idea at first. You don't have to pay for printing and deal with distribution. That gets rid of a lot of salaries--not to mention the cost of paper/printing, shipping, etc.

And of course conventional wisdom has it that everything is going to the Web. Well, that last isn't true. For reasons I'll cover in a later post.
Many, many magazines aren't going to be able to survive on the Web, for two reasons. First, as more advertising venues appear, the money is going to get thin in many places. Advertisers are cutting back and will continue to reduce spending over the next couple of years, and there won't be enough ad money to support everyone.
The magazines will last longer because of the print-cost savings, but you'll see mergers, bankruptcies, and overnight disappearances of print-gone-Web magazines as those advertising dollars shrink.
Second, magazines won't retain their readership after moving to the Web. Why not? For the same reason they've been losing readers in print: reduced quality. Readers are in the habit of expecting something extra online, or at least quality, and in the cost-saving mode of moving to the Web magazines are not going to increase content quality. I don't think a majority are prepared to accept the Web as the sole source; we've been conditioned to think of anything on the Web as "rightfully" free, and a magazine Web site with no magazine ... ?
What happens after that? I have some ideas ...
Copyright © 2008, Michael A. Banks

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