The publishing industry has intrigued me for most of my life. The last third or so of it I spent working within that industry. Both print and digital. I remain curious about where the industry is going.

I had four bosses in the time I spent with magazine publishing. One of them had the temerity to tell me that I was the “print” guy and they needed a “web” guy. I gently reminded him that I was deeply enmeshed in the Internet when he was beginning elementary school. I was exploring the World Wide Web when it was brand new poised to displace all the proprietary things such as AOL and Prodigy. This blog began in 2003. You can still find all of the posts even though it is on its third platform.

But I still watch the print side. Publishing is a very tough business right now. Especially in industrially oriented niches. The ratio when I began was 35% editorial/65% ads at Cahners/Reed. Check the ratios today. It’s tough. You need to be an astute manager to make money in today’s market.

It’s broader than industrial. Take this article I saw as a sign.

MPA — The Association of Magazine Media, the nonprofit trade group that represents around 75 of the largest consumer magazine publishers in the U.S., as well as suppliers and other industry stakeholders, is leaving New York after 100 years and relocating its headquarters to Washington, D.C.

The move, precipitated by a board of directors vote last week, represents a reallocation of resources, prioritizing lobbying and government advocacy over the association’s other activities, such as advertiser and agency outreach, consumer marketing and research, according to an MPA spokeswoman.

“In looking at priorities, the Board identified D.C.-based advocacy work around issues such as postal, ad tax, consumer privacy, the First Amendment and data and subscription marketing, among others, to be the most important and in need of the most resources,” Susan Russ, the MPA’s senior VP of communications, tells Folio:. “This work contributes directly to our members’ bottom lines.”

MPA’s most senior staffer going forward will be Brigitte Gwyn, executive VP of government affairs, an experienced K Street lobbyist who joined the association earlier this year and will continue running its D.C. office.

This looks like an industry protecting it’s rear flank rather than confidently looking into the future.

Digital isn’t much better in aggregate. Advertising money keeps gravitating toward the evil threesome—Amazon, Facebook, Google.

Alternatively, subscriptions as the main source of income does not scale. I just signed up to subscribe to Tim Ferriss’ podcasts. He was thinking subscriptions in lieu of sponsors. The experiment last two weeks. Even someone as famous as he couldn’t scale subscriptions.

People, including me, love free media. But somehow we all have to eat. I don’t think politics is the answer. It’s the same as the idiots who think the way to profits in manufacturing is through cutting costs and eliminating people. Never works in the long run.

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