I must admit that personally, I still like the feel of paper when reading a book or leafing through a magazine. However, I recognize that the convenience of the ebook (and of course the price), and the possibility of being able to find a good online magazine always at my disposal, such as 60 Minutos, have made my paper consumption drastically reduced, which is excellent news for the environment, right?
The truth is that my reading habits have changed in the last five years. Although research shows that people are still reading books, it also shows that we are moving towards digital consumption. And that's what's happening to me. Albeit slowly, but nevertheless, we are all moving in that direction.
What about you? Do you still keep some of the latest print magazines?
Today we are going to investigate a little bit some statistics, some facts you don't want to miss, and finally, what we can expect for the future of magazines. Or at least we'll try to do a little futurology on that. But first, do people still read magazines today? Yes, people are still reading magazines in 2020. But research shows a decline in reading for the first time since 2012. Sales of print publications, including magazines, have also plummeted from $46 billion to about $28 billion. Although there is a curious fact that suggests that it will be Generation Z, which is responsible for ending completely with the paper editions, in favor of digital format.
Paper vs. digital
At first glance, things don't look good and the trend is clear. A quick search reveals that essential search terms have been steadily declining from January 2004 to November 2019. Terms like; news magazines, fashion magazines, the best magazines, the word "magazines" alone... even the free magazines by mail have been downloaded!
There was also a short-lived interest in tablet-style (digital) magazines from 2010 to 2012. These include the iPad, Kindle and other tablets. But that interest quickly dissolved.
You may or may not remember when Playboy magazine decided to remove nude photos. This was and still is a testament to how digital information has outpaced most print reading formats. Everything, including nude photos, is now just a click away.
Now, we may not all agree with this transition or its side effects. But honestly, our opinions don't matter much in the grand scheme of things. When was the last time you stopped at a newsstand to buy a newspaper?
Does all this mean that people don't read magazines anymore?
Yes and no. Let me explain. Most of us intuitively realize that fewer and fewer people read the printed versions of magazines. For example, what do you do with those unexpected magazines that show up in your mailbox every week? Do you read them? I guess, at best, you take a look at a few pages without reading much, and then you put them directly in the recycling bin. Just a guess.
However, research showed that there has been a slight, perhaps insignificant, increase in magazine readership since 2012. That changed in 2018. The number dropped by about 600,000, the first drop since 2012.
This same research also shows that the magazine industry has seen a drop in overall revenue (income). It fell from $46 billion in 2007 to about $28 billion in 2017. And I can't imagine that this statistic will improve by 2018 or 2019, but I will keep this post updated.
What about digital?
Let me ask you something, how many magazines (print or digital) do you subscribe to, and how many of your friends or family members do you know who subscribe to one? Of course I mentioned at the beginning that there are digital magazines that have a wide acceptance among the public, but in this case I'm talking about the concept of traditional magazine, but brought to the Internet. It's a subtle difference, but really when it comes to analyzing the scope, the difference becomes abysmal, simply because of how both ideas were conceived.
I came across a different research work where the objective was to understand how Millenials feel about printed magazines in a world that is now mostly digital. Surprisingly, most of the participants (73%) claimed to have read a magazine in the last month.
What struck me, however, was a section in which participants predicted that they would not be the ones to pull the plug on the old fashioned print magazines, but their successors, those of Generation Z.
"Despite the strong feelings of group members about print magazines, many participants were not sure that print has a secure position. Participants predicted that they would not be the generation to eliminate print magazines in favor of digital formats, but their successor, Generation Z, could provide the final push toward fully digital media. Those were the conclusions of the study.
So what happened? Are most of the cases where magazines have disappeared, because they have not kept up with technology? I'm not so sure. The information is so vast and easily accessible today, that it is still difficult for magazines and publishers to stay afloat or be different in any way.
Again, look at the enthusiasm for iPad or Kindle magazines. There was some initial enthusiasm, but it quickly waned - and I mean quickly - in just two years!
Pushing the subscription models
I am not convinced that the subscription model - for magazines - has a future. Especially in the hands of Generation Z. For example, I'm not sure how many subscribers or the demographic breakdown of those subscribers that the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal have; although of course, in this case, we're talking about newspapers. But I have to imagine that younger generations, including Y, Z, and definitely the Alpha Generation, will be less inclined to subscribe to such platforms just to get the "latest news. And with more and more celebrities and businesses adopting social media and sharing exclusive content, for free, fashion magazines and other similar types of magazines may soon face the same demise. It's really only a matter of time.
Perhaps magazines, as those of us who are now of age knew them, will soon become part of history. Even the attempt to digitally replicate them will most likely, if not disappear, cease to have the popularity that their sisters had on paper.
However, the information in magazine format will remain on the websites, much more diversified and of course, free. And it is likely that only those with highly specialized topics will achieve a level of professionalization that justifies the subscription to its contents.