Tablets – iBad for the health of magazines?

Every time you tune your FM dial, a Shakespeare script is burned. Every time you go to the cinema, a radio DJ is turfed. Every time you sit on the couch and channel surf, a cinema is closed. And every time you open Internet Explorer, another magazine goes under.

Or so some people would like you to think.

“Every new technology supposedly has to kill an older technology to make room for itself” says the President of Hearst Magazines, Cathie Black. Black has banded together with four other magazine publishers in the ‘Power of Print’ campaign.

The campaign was created to assure magazine readers that even with the recent influx of tablet computers, the magazine industry isn’t headed for a downfall.

In addition to Black, the web-video features high-profile magazine publishers Charles H. Townsend of Condé Nast; JackGriffinof Meredith Corporation; Ann Moore of Time Inc. and Jann Wenner of Wenner Media.

The campaign was founded in March, 2010 in theUnited Statesand was recently brought toAustraliaby ACP managing director, Phil Scott. The campaign includes web-videos and double page advertisements printed in magazines, all regarding the state of the industry.

The ads work to dismiss rumours about a collapse of print media, particularly from bloggers. AdFreak, a blog dedicated to “media, advertising, pop culture & everything in between” has said that “magazines are dying, and so are their readers” and the 4 Inch Heels Only blog wrote that “magazines are over”.

Charles H. Townsend dispels the belief that new media must take the place of an older medium, saying “as long as those [old] media, continue to evolve and provide an irreplaceable value” the media can continue to survive.

“We surf the internet, we swim in magazines…”, reads the double-page spread, printed in over 100 magazines and reaching over 112 million US readers per month “…people aren’t giving up swimming, just because they enjoy surfing”.

The readership figures too, are comforting for those in the magazine industry. According to the most recent Roy Morgan survey, though retail sales were the lowest they had been for 50 years, magazine readership had actually remained steady with a 0.1 per cent increase.

Phil Scott, whose ACP Magazines remained the market leader, has said these results “belie the popular myth of an industry in decline”.

Olivia Kate, a 23 year-old university student, said that although she doesn’t have an iPad at the moment, if she were to get one, she’d “see if it’s cheaper to subscribe to magazines through an App and read them on the iPad”.

However, Christian Schaefer, a 22 year-old full-time worker, says that although iPads and tablet consoles may “be the only way of reading magazines soon”, he doesn’t read enough magazines to make buying an iPad worthwhile. “I don’t have any desire to buy an iPad right now…especially on my salary”.

Though the decision isn’t solely based on price, Ken Hyden, a 79-year-old pensioner, thinks that iPads “are too difficult for someone my age to use…and I’d rather spill a bit of tea on my magazine, rather than a computer”.

A possible decline in magazine sales, or transition from print magazines to e-magazines, will also – undoubtedly – have a massive effect on newsagents and other magazine retailers.

Lincoln, a worker at the Glenferrie Road Newsagency, has said that they sell “between 60 and 70 magazines per day”. Although magazine readership has increased, average magazine sales have dropped 5.3 per cent and the number is expected, by many, to continue to fall.

Media Manager at Marketing Company, Torque Solutions, Melissa Meagher, thinks that hard-copy magazines are far more marketable and more easily integrated within the reader’s social life.

“A magazine can be chucked in the back seat of your car and taken to the beach…you don’t need to plug it in and recharge it” she says.

Melissa says that from a marketing point of view, ads in a magazine are more likely to be observed by the reader.

“I think that as soon as ads go online, people see them as more of a hindrance”.

She adds that paper magazines are easier to share around between readers.

“A paper magazine can be thrown around between friends…whether they’re discussing an issue or just want to show their friends a dress they want to buy”.

Melissa also adds that an online magazine is “less likely to be flicked through…it’s not sitting in front of you, so it’s out of sight and out of mind”.

“I see magazines as becoming as personal as letters feel in this e-mail age”.

Editor of GQ Australia Magazine, Nick Smith, has said that magazines are now “heritage products” and there is a definitive longevity in them. “People like to touch and feel the magazines…as well as read them”.

Smith has also said that magazine readership for the 6 issues yearly magazine has “increased by 30% year-on-year”. Since Smith took the reigns of the magazine in 2009, he has overseen the induction of the GQ Style Magazine, larger in size than the regular magazine, devoted entirely to fashion and the arts, to fulfill another desire sought by magazine readers.

“People like having things on display…we wanted to create something that people could put on their coffee tables”.

Smith is also working on incorporating the internet into his magazine, rather than working against it. “We use Twitter to connect to our readers…and we launched our website last year”.

Smith says that the magazine thinks hard about how and when they promote online, “we generally post tweets in the morning when our readers are on their way to work…as well as around 11am when they hit the pre-lunch slump”.

GQ recently promoted their newest issue at an event they hosted at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival inSydney. “Our target market is 25-49 year old business men…they can be a hard target to reach through advertising”, says Smith, who relies heavily on newsagents and supermarkets to sell the magazines for him.

“Our Ben Cousins cover was controversial…so that got us thousands of dollars of free publicity” says Smith, talking about the August-September issue printed last year with controversial football star and former drug-addict, Ben Cousins, on the cover.

“We’ve made a decision to only put men on the cover…men who are sophisticated, or men who are inspirational…at the time Ben was back on track and playing forRichmond[Football Club]”.

When asked if GQ would ever sell their magazines online, Smith is reserved as “it would mean an increase in production cost”. However Smith is far from ruling it out, “magazines can never be complacent…at the moment there is only about 500,000 iPads in Australia, by the end of 2014 about a quarter of Australians should have one…that’s when it would probably be most worthwhile”.

Editor of the Australian Financial Review (AFR) Magazine, Jeni Porter, says that by “focusing on its core strengths – strong insightful journalism and high quality production values”, there is longevity for the magazine in the industry.

Like Smith, Porter says that by “being more daring in our story mix, cover images and overall design” the magazine is gaining more readers and more publicity.

“The printed magazine…will be part of a suite of products that have some relationship to each other… iPad apps take advantage of technology to have material that you can’t have in print and so on”, she says.

With the AFR readership numbers increasing by 20 per cent in the past year, Porter says that she is “very optimistic about the future of the printed magazine”.

Editor of what was once one of Melbourne’s most popular online magazines,, Margaret Ambrose, believes that print and online magazines do not have to out-perform each other for them both to have a share in the medium.

“There’ll always be a place for printed magazines because [people] want to look at the pictures. What has changed is that they are now turning more to the Internet for information.”

By Michael Winn