Expectations of more consolidation hang over NY magazine conference

After a year that saw the sale of magazine stalwarts Time Inc., Rodale and Rolling Stone, there was plenty of black humor at the magazine industry’s annual gathering, the American Magazine Media Conference in New York this week.

Hearst Magazines chief content officer Joanna Coles joked that she was surprised to see so many people still worked in the magazine industry. Jim McKelvey, the founder of Invisibly, quipped that this was the first industry event he’d attended that gave away Kleenexes in the gift bags.

After Fortune President Alan Murray asked the crowd in the ballroom how many could say their business was booming, just one hand went up.

“Everybody’s looking for a reason to be optimistic,” one attendee said. “But it’s somber, for sure.”

And while some digital publishers have held up the idea that publishers could band together to fix their problems, not everybody is optimistic that that will work. Onstage, WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell was asked if he thought publishers should band together to combat the Google/Facebook duopoly. Sorrell replied, “When industries that are highly competitive are faced with an existential threat, they rarely come together.”

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