Magazine Launches

Samir Husni takes FT reporter James Chaffin to task for an article headlined ‘Time and Hearst focus on new media rather than new titles’. Husni counters with some statistics on new launches:

Even if you exclude the specials and one shots, here are some of the numbers of new magazine launches going back to 1984. Keep in mind these are all new magazine launches with at least four time launch frequency. Starting in 1984 the numbers are 134, 203, 299, 300, 284, starting in 1990 the numbers are 325, 363, 443, 417, 458, 510, 535,459, 518,360 and starting in 2000 the numbers are 333, 301, 290, 454, 473, 350, and 332 in 2006. There is no need to explain any of these numbers. I think they speak for themselves. I hope reporters, especially those in the print media, stop promoting the myth of print is dead and no one is doing anything in print any more

One can agree with Husni that its absurd to say that print is dead; its very much alive and kicking, even trade magazines. But Husni’s statistics do suggest that the rate of new US consumer magazine launches is slowing significantly: down from 535 in 2006 to 332 in 2006. That is quite a drop in decade (38%). But surely Chaffin is none the less right in the thrust of his article that a consumer magazine launch now has to have a strong web strategy. That was not true even five years ago. Conde Nast’s Portfolio the biggest launch of 2007 has attracted a lot of attention to its web strategy, “The website is huge. It’s key to the enterprise,” [Joanne Lipman, Portfolio’s editor-in-chief quoted by Chaffin].

Neither Husni, nor Chaffin, make what seem to us the most obvious point: a new magazine launch should not really happen in 2007 or 2008 unless the publisher has in place a strategy to launch a compelling digital edition. Most new launches do not, which is nuts. Distribution and promotion are the two biggest challenges for a new magazine and digital editions are by far the most cost effective means of delivery and of promotional sampling. Portfolio needs to flesh out this side of its business strategy fast or it will lose its advertisers.