Are Magazines now a Luxury Item?

May 5th, 2008

This blog entry complements my last entry on magazines (May 2nd). The information came to me by a circuitous route.

Bob Sacks, aka “BoSacks” “a veteran of the printing/publishing industry since 1970” (primarily the magazine industry), issues an iconoclastic email newsletter, and does so thrice daily (!), most of which focuses on the magazine industry, some of which reaches out to the broader publishing business. (You can subscribe and read back issues here.)

In his first issue today he quotes an entry by Michael Truro from his “[in plain sight]” blog. That entry, also posted today, says in part:

“While I hate to sound like chicken little – and though the print is dead meme is way overplayed – I had to post this quote from Steve Frye [a publishing and printing industry consultant]. In a sidebar in the current issue of Publishing Executive titled “The State of the Printing Industry,” Frye drops this bomb:

“‘I think we need to change our philosophy of what a magazine is. We are no longer a cheap means of dispensing information, and that’s what we were until the Internet came along. Now we are an inefficient and expensive means of distributing information.…We need to reinvent ourselves as a luxury item that people want and are willing to pay for. And until we change our own image of who we are, we’re going to find out that our vendors are going to change it for us. Because, right now, postage is a premium. Paper is a premium. Soon printing will be a premium. How long can we buy at a premium and sell at a discount? We can’t.’”

Frye’s is the strongest statement I’ve yet encountered on the future of magazines. I’m not sure I agree – it doesn’t really matter if I do. I think it’s a well-thought-out comment, worthy of consideration and debate.