Some magazines will make a successful transition to digital subscriptions and digital distribution. Some will not. The commercial environment for magazine publishers is getting tougher, and the fall in advertising budgets across all media segments is not helping. The magazines that really need to build their digital subscription revenues should get going with the subscription service as soon as possible; and keep in mind that the Subscribers have to have a good reason to subscribe. The subscriptions will not come if all the content, or the better part of the content is made freely accessible on the magazine web site.
Two magazines on the Exact Editions platform announced that they were closing up last week. It has been no secret that The Press Gazette has been losing money for at least four years and for its last three proprietors, so no surprise but very sad to hear that its next issue will be its last. The Ecologist is also soon to produce its last print issue. Zac Goldsmith its wealthy and influential proprietor, writing in the Guardian, sees this as a positive step and not one motivated by the magazines losses. He points out that the magazine has never made money and he has never been in it for the prospect of profits:
What has changed is that we have reached a point – compounded by the recession – where we are not able to get as much value for money as we could from the internet. Online our potential readership is limitless. If we get it right, we can reach millions. We can launch campaigns and see immediate results. We can bring news to people when it matters – now. The format will change, of course, but we won't lose anything that has made the Ecologist vital and relevant. We will continue to provide the best analysis and the best investigations. We will continue to provoke, fearlessly, where that's needed. (Zac Goldsmith: Why the Ecologist has Gone Online)When a publisher decides to cease print publication Exact Editions promptly removes the publication and its sample issue from the Exact Editions shop. We also arrange with the publisher to refund any subscriptions which have not been fully delivered (this is a very important obligation which any reputable publisher accepts), but we are also able to continue to offer access to the available back issues for the term of the subscription. So subscribers should not lose out. Whether the archive of back issues can be kept available in the long term or made available, perhaps as open access, in the longer term, will depend on the publisher's policy.
While we will miss these excellent magazines, the fact is that magazines always have been coming into and passing out of print. The challenge is to how deal with their post publication preservation. The challenge for the publisher of a magazine in the digital age is how to keep sufficient value in the premium subscription, whilst using the web to develop the maximum impact from the magazine's content, and its mission.
It is not an easy task. But making a successful magazine never has been easy.