David Hepworth, whose day job is at Development Hell, writes a well-informed but sometimes rather jaundiced column on the magazine business for the Guardian. This week's column is typically bleak on the industry's prospects for 2008 and it includes this comment:
The chief executive of one big publisher of women's weeklies told me that he had given up pretending with investors and was prepared to confess that he could not see a way that his company would ever make money out of the internet. History will either see this as a hopeless lack of vision or admirable good sense, depending on how things work out.
The subtitle to Hepworth's column has the heading: "It is not that people have fallen out of love with mags - they just don't want to pay for them". Well that is plain wrong. Perhaps Hepworth's views are conditioned by the woes of the music industry, which has a serious format/service problem. CDs are a product that consumers no longer want to pay for, but magazines remain very popular as a format. Magazines are still attracting subscriptions from consumers, and the good news is that digital subscriptions are working.
What about advertising? One of the big challenges for Exact Editions in the next year will be to help magazine publishers to show that advertisements in digital magazines adds significantly to the value of the magazine proposition for advertisers. Magazine publishers tend to attract significant and highly targetted niche markets. These collections of consumers remain very valuable and yes -- hopeless lack of vision is more of a problem.