There is no doubt that the print magazine industry is in big trouble, and this month, Newsweek joined the list of big-name magazines that might not survive in printed form with the announcement that Newsweek is up for sale.  Like other magazines, Newsweek has lost so many advertisers that it’s no longer profitable.  In fact, few magazines aren’t desperately trying to stay afloat (e.g., The Economist is one of those few) as competition from freely available and real-time content online is just too easy to access to make spending money on a magazine worthwhile anymore.

The better question is not how to compete against digital communications but how to add value that would actually motivate people to purchase a magazine rather than searching for similar information online.  If traditional magazine publishing is to survive into the second decade of the 21st century, publishers need to figure out what it would take to get consumers to pay $4 or $5 for a printed magazine that comes out weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.  There has to be more than what people can access online.

Therein lies the problem.  What can’t people access online these days?  The world of communications has changed.  The day came when the Pony Express was no longer necessary, and it appears that the day is coming for print publishing to either dramatically change its value proposition else it too will become unnecessary.

What would it take for you to pay for a magazine rather than simply finding relevant content online?

Looking at this issue from the flip side, one could argue that news has morphed into commentary rather than factual journalism.  Are there any online or offline publishers that simply report the news without editorializing it in some way?  Even top news organizations have reputations for spinning hard news stories to the right or left depending on the political leanings of the powers that be at those organizations.  If there was such a news organization that simply reported the news, would people be willing to pay for access to the news published by that organization either online or offline?

These are the questions that the publishing and news industries are facing.  What are your predictions for the future of publishing?  Do you still buy magazines?  Why or why not?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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