The Future of Magazines: The Good News You Haven’t Heard

future_mag.jpegThere is a nasty rumor going around in the marketing and media world. It goes something like this: Print is dying, and magazines are on their way out. Sure, this is an easy assumption to make when you consider how the Internet has revolutionized the way we do pretty much everything or how society seems to revolve around social media like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. But don’t believe everything you hear.

Yes, it’s true that newsstand sales are down (a sobering but not surprising fact considering the magnitude of the recession). And, yes, the shutterings of stalwart magazine titles like Gourmet, Home and Garden and Domino have sent a collective shiver down the spine of some of the biggest magazines in the the consumer market.

Despite all this, magazine readership has grown at a higher rate in the past five years than patronage of any other media except the Internet, and subscriptions are at their highest level in a decade, according to a Mediamark Research & Intelligence report released by the Magazine Publishers of America. And for all the YouTube videos, iPhone apps, and Facebook and Twitter obsessing that consumes our time, young adults (ages 18-34) are the fastest growing group of magazine readers, the report notes.

So all that talk about magazines becoming as obsolete as last season’s
fur-trimmed boots? It’s easy to buy into the hype, I know. I started my
career in magazines, but lately I’m spending more and more time writing
Web content, blogging and posting to social media sites. And I lost my
last job at a magazine after one of our major clients shifted all of
their marketing dollars from a print magazine to a website.

But I
still read magazines (as do most people I know). I still dream of
writing for the big glossies. And I’m not ready to count magazines out
yet. Neither should you. My prediction: In the next decade, magazines
will not only survive; they will thrive. Here are three reasons why: 

1. Magazines are the ultimate trendsetters.
Media experts may be debating the demise of magazines, but most editors
and publishers aren’t sitting around fretting the future. They are
taking action: connecting with readers via Facebook and Twitter,
expanding their reach through digital magazines and websites, developing
handy iPhone apps and planning how to integrate their content with the
iPad. Marie Claire magazine became the talk of Twitter recently with the
release of its interactive shopping edition,
which allows readers to snap a picture of a fashion item with their
smart phone and instantly shop for it. If any medium has a reputation
for looking forward, it’s magazines–and they are finding ways to stay
more relevant than ever.

2. Readers still need the escape. Sure,
technology makes it possible to have all of the information we need
right at our fingertips, 24/7, but that’s even more of a reason we all
need a break sometimes. And that’s what magazines do best. They let us
escape, pretend, imagine and daydream. They encourage us to look beyond
what’s right before our eyes and think about the possibilities. People
already seem to be looking for technology time-outs, with more Facebook
users taking “sabbaticals” and surveys showing a desire to unplug. Whether magazines become as trendy as playing vintage records, as one blogger suggests, or morph into an interactive iPad platform, they will always captivate us and encourage us to break away.

3. Magazines are extensions of us.
Who doesn’t remember the magazines on their coffee table growing up?
Who hasn’t looked for answers to relationships, careers, love or life in
the pages of a magazine? Magazines reflect our culture back to us, help
us make connections, spur conversations and raise questions we are too
afraid to ask. When what we read or see makes an impact, it often
inspires us to act. Magazines are one of the top drivers of Web searches and the favored medium
for media engagement–proof that the majority of us still turn to them
for insight, advice, enlightenment and a sounding board for our emotions
and experiences. 

Need more convincing? Listen to what the country’s top publishers have to say about the vitality of magazines.

a reason magazines are such an enduring and engaging media force,” says
Charles H. Townsend, president and CEO of Conde Nast. “The format
showcases our rich content and our advertisers’ brand messages like no
other medium, resulting in a bond with consumers that is uniquely

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Emily McMackin

About Emily McMackin

Emily McMackin is an editor, writer and perpetual storyteller with an incurable addiction to coffee, magazines, Neil Diamond and Caribbean travel. She resides in Music City USA (that's Nashville, Tenn., ya'll!), where you'll find her staking out live music, salsa dancing, scouring town for the best latte and working on her first No. 1 (book that is).

  • http://twitter.com/sidebarreview Tyler Reed

    This is great, Emily! The Marie Claire innovation you mentioned is the kind of multimedia excitement we all have to look forward to. Magazines aren’t dying — they’re just reforming and improving.