Future of Magazines and Newspapers Uncertain
March 8, 2013
If you walk into the McPherson Public Library during any time of the day or evening, chances are that you will see people relaxing in our magazine and newspaper area reading the latest issues. But all is not well in the land of periodicals.
Magazine publishers have struggled for the past several years. Their printing and distribution costs continue to increase as advertising and circulation revenues continue to decrease.
Of the big three news magazines, U.S. News transitioned to an online only format in 2008. Newsweek pulled the plug on their printed edition at the end last year. Only Time remains, though Henry Luce would break down and cry if he could see the insubstantial pamphlet his magazine has become.
The Sporting News, another venerable publication, also moved to an online only edition, but library patrons will be happy to know that we have replaced it with ESPN Magazine.
Those who enjoy holding the latest issue of a favorite magazine in their hands should take heart. While the industry may be ailing, there are plenty of magazines who are successfully making their way in print, with new ones being created each year.
The future of newspapers, however, appears much darker. The Newspaper Association of America reported that American newspapers continue to exhibit a steady decline in advertising revenue, paid circulations, and readership in all age groups.
Given the regularity with which they are printed and distributed, such costs are particularly crushing for newspapers. The Wall Street Journal, the nation’s number one newspaper, uses a state of the art printing and distribution system to insure that a current copy arrives in the mailbox of each subscriber the same day. But for the rest of the newspapers, it’s a tall order that is not getting easier.
Copies of our local newspaper, the McPherson Sentinel, are delivered to the library like clockwork. But problems which we have experienced over the past year with some of the large newspapers in the state indicate that they would simply rather not be bothered with the task of attempting same day delivery – or any delivery at all -- to their out of town subscribers.
As with the last days of the Roman Empire, these larger newspapers appreciate any revenue they can wring out of their far flung provinces, but they no longer will commit the funds or manpower to hold them effectively. Even the average Roman Centurion was not expected to rise in the middle of the night and deliver newspapers in the dark seven days a week for a small net profit.
The future of both magazines and newspapers is uncertain. Online renditions have reported success more often when their revenue comes from advertising and not paid subscriptions. But I think that we will continue to see magazines and newspapers produced in both print and online formats for some time, depending on their subject and readership.