Yesterday at the FIPP World Magazine Conference, William Kerr, board chairman at Meredith Group suggested that ‘being 12 per cent down is the new up’.
The wider economic downturn and the gap between online and traditional offline advertising revenues in the magazine industry have been referred to in every panel I’ve attended so far (though more often than not it’s referred to as ‘challenging times’). But has the mag industry faced facts?
Dylan Jones, editor of GQ, doesn’t seem to think so:
“When we come out of this recession many industries will be the same, but the mass market motor industry and the newspaper industry will be changed forever,” Jones told delegates.
“There are many people in the magazine industry who think it won’t effect them, but we could equally be having these conversations in two or three years time about the magazine industry.”
There will be more cost-cutting, in particular staff reductions, as the industry realises the impact, he added. (GQ’s publisher Conde Nast reportedly axed five per cent of its US magazine staff last October)
For other’s the downturn is a huge opportunity for innovation and restructuring. Google’s UK MD, Matt Brittin, predicted that the current climate would accelerate certain types of user behaviour online. For example, the use of search and free technologies to create their own content.
The challenge for publishers is to monitor these changes and respond to the consumers’ changing needs online – often by embracing new, free technologies themselves, but also by finding new ways to serve up their content that will be found through specific search queries, for instance, or relating to niche topics.
According to Brittin, opportunities exist – with Google’s help of course – within the ‘first downturn in a truly digital age’.