Across the industry the omens are bleak. PwC forecasts print advertising revenue for consumer magazines will fall to $US6.7 billion ($8.6 billion) in the US by 2021, less than half the $US13.6 billion magazines took in 2012. Print circulation sales are projected to drop 23 per cent to $US6.1 billion over the same period. The UK will see a 49 per cent drop in print ad revenue to $US474 million and a 37 per cent fall in circulation to $US1.3 billion.
Magna Global, a media buying agency, expects magazines’ global advertising revenues to fall 13 per cent this year, while Enders Analysis, a media research group, has warned that the consumer magazine market was reaching “an existential threshold”.
“The industry is shrinking,” says Douglas McCabe, Enders’ chief executive. “The decline seems to be accelerating both in circulation and in advertising – for print and online.”
Their backs to the wall, publishers are trying a range of measures to stop the slump and return to growth. At Time Inc, the 94-year-old company founded by Henry Luce that owns Time, People magazine and Sports Illustrated, no idea seems to be off limits. It has launched a subscription service for pet owners and a rewards programme offering discounts on retailers and restaurants. Jen Wong, Time Inc’s chief operating officer, says she sees a “substantial” opportunity to sell products beyond magazines to its 30 million subscribers.
Others are capitalising on their brands by taking them into new areas. Condé Nast International has launched a fashion college in London as well as Vogue cafés in Moscow and Dubai, and a GQ Bar in Berlin. This week its US cousin staged the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit backed by sponsors such as HBO and Dom Pérignon and featuring figures from media and technology, with tickets costing $US 6,500 each for the Beverly Hills event.