The number of magazines launched in North America has declined by more than half since 2009, when 275 new magazines were created, and 2015, when there were only 113 new magazines. In terms of magazine closings, the number peaked in 2009 at 428 and declined to 35 in 2015. So although in 2009, during the Great Recession, more new magazines launched than in subsequent years, the number of magazines that opened that year was only about 63% of those that closed.
According to the Pew Center, the magazine industry as a whole has declined by 14%, but news magazines’ decline has been only about 1%. Nevertheless, even diehard weekly newsmagazines like Time and Newsweek have experienced a drop in revenue. So some iconic magazines, like Ladies’ Home Journal, which, in 1903, is said to have reached more than 1 million subscribers. As of July 2014, it has been published as a quarterly, rather than a monthly magazine and may be purchased only at newsstands. One non-news magazine that appears to be doing quite well is Better Homes & Gardens. In March 2015, it was reported to have a combined print-digital circulation of close to 40 million and about 6.2 million readers on the mobile Web.
Digital magazine reading has grown exponentially. In 2015, the MPA-Association of Magazine Media reported that in the preceding three years, the percentage of American adult readers of digital magazines had quadrupled. On the other hand, sales of magazines at newsstands have dipped dramatically.
General interest magazines have declined, and the majority of magazines are niche- oriented—for instance, employee magazines, college alumni magazines, and special-
interest magazines. The process of thriving with narrower audiences within the larger mass audience is called demassification. The industry is catering to more specialized audiences with diverse interests. The industry, although losing ground in terms of general interest and some print publications, is still robust and rapidly expanding in the digital marketplace. Consumer magazine revenue did not change much between 2014 and 2015. In 2015, it totaled about $24.6 billion, but is expected to rise to about $24.7 billion by 2019. This is largely because of gains in digital magazine revenue.
Magazine Publishers Today Today the bulk of magazine industry production and revenue is concentrated in a relatively small number of companies. Here are the top four U.S. magazine publishers, ranked ordered in terms of total revenue, followed by some of their most popular publications:
Time: People, Time, Sports Illustrated, Southern Living, Real Simple, InStyle
Hearst: Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Marie Claire, Elle, Redbook, Popular Mechanics, Seventeen, O, the Oprah Magazine, House Beautiful, Car and Driver, Harper’s Bazaar
Condé Nast: Allure, Conde Nast Traveler, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit, GQ, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Wired
Meredith: American Baby, Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, Fitness, Midwest Living, Parents, Traditional Home. Eating Well, Every Day with Rachel Ray
The question today is the extent to which, in the digital age, the magazine industry can reinvent itself. So far magazines as ink-on-paper products are losing ground to Internet publications almost uniformly. Many trade magazines—those that cater to special interests—remain strong, but their impact pales compared to that of Life and other national titles at the industry’s heyday before television and the Internet.
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