Challenges facing the magazine publishing industry

Going green is helping titles maintain and in some cases even grow their subscribers

With digital publishing providing instant access to information, there’s no denying the decline it has caused in printed magazine sales. But Spatial Global has noticed that something unusual is happening with the niche titles we distribute. Maybe it is because we help magazine publishers manage costs and help make titles more sustainable through highly effective, environmentally friendly mailing solutions. But there are other factors we have noticed that successful magazine publishers do too…


Publishers thrive when they listen to their readers

This isn’t about the content here. We have noticed a trend towards compostable 100% plastic-free alternatives to conventional polythene wrapping. Polythene has been the traditional ‘low cost’ way to distribute magazines for decades. But since Sir David Attenborough called for the world to cut back on the use of plastic in order to protect oceans, subscribers have aired their voices and demanded alternatives. Magazine publishers who have listened to their readers’ requests and switched to plastic-free alternative have typically enjoyed sustained or increasing numbers. Titles that continue with polythene because of the increased costin changing(costs to switch to 100% plastic-free alternative is typically £10-£20 per 1000) experience a decline in subscribers as people refuse to accept the unwanted plastic packaging.


The reader wants to enjoy the experience of a printed magazine

When it comes to magazines, research consistently shows people read more, read longer and subscribe more often to print than the digital equivalent. Magazines have always been a collectable object, often building a reference library of interesting articles on a favourite subject. Put simply, it’s a more emotional engagement reading print, than reading digital content. If you need evidence of this just look at a new magazine named ‘A Profound Waste of Time.’ The new title celebrates computer games as an art form and has been received with an amazing response after launching earlier this year.


Niche titles are in-tune with their readers, they look forward to receiving it

In an age where content quality varies wildly, and a search brings thousands of results, readers seek out factual, reliable information from reputable titles that have an authoritative voice. Whether it’s an interest or hobby, religious belief or news relevant to an industry sector - magazines which are in-tune with their readers appear to be thriving.

As newspapers and magazines are finding out, if you can publish writing that is consistently and significantly better than what can be found online, people will pay.

Fraser Nelson, Editor of The Spectator


What does the long-term commercial model of magazine publishing look like'

This is a question we continually ask, as without printed magazines, publishers will not need our services. But in challenging times innovation and creativity flourish, and we can see this within the portfolio of titles we distribute. This article is not meant to be scientifically thorough research, but we hoped to share our thoughts so magazine publishers can better understand today’s readers and what they like.  We believe that the value of print remains strong – but titles need to evolve like any business to cater for their customers’ changing needs.

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