The combination of a fierce recession and a big shift in advertising budgets towards new Media is making life very difficult for newspapers and consumer magazines. Take this article in this week’s Advertising Age, Will Print Survive the Next Five Years?

In the worst-case scenario, however, advertisers won’t come back. The downturn will drive them into the arms of efficient electronic media that can better demonstrate a higher return on investment. Auto looks likely to behave that way. Marketers will get the hang of building friendly social networks and advocates around their brands, undermining their interest in the trusted brands of newspapers and magazines.

The hemorrhaging of jobs will scare the print industry’s top talent into other businesses entirely. The focal points of culture and commerce will swing further from faded institutions such as newspapers and magazines. The print products that continue will rely on smaller audiences than ever.

Portfolio is chopping out its web team, and “doubling down on its print edition” but it still has not launched a digital edition. What is the point of doubling down on your print edition if you dont offer it through the web? Where is the sunlight? If you look around the newspaper and magazine industry pundits optimism is very thin on the ground. The problem is that the industry has not yet appreciated that the web can be used to deliver the magazine, it has made the terrible mistake of trying to repurpose its content to a format and a package which will attract the same audience as the print product. As though mashing up a print magazine as some kind of web service could conceivably deliver the same audience and the same commercial benefits. Oddly enough this last week’s announcement from Google and the publishing industry really tells the magazine industry what it should have been doing in the last five years. Books are now to be sold as web services. Magazines should be sold as digital subscriptions for the audience that uses the web. This audience is growing and will value the fantastic advantages of web delivery (speed, archives, searchability, omnipresence and multiple access). None of the major consumer magazine companies in the US or the UK has an effective program of digital subscriptions and paid digital circulation. If they had been building this for 4/5 years they would by now be seeing 20% or more of their ciculation coming from digital only subscribers, at much higher margins than can be realised by a print product.

The gloomy pundit will point out that it is still not entirely clear how digital magazines can deliver the advertising benefits which make consumer magazines highly profitable (circulation revenue is not the ‘cream’ of the magazine business — the cream comes from ads). But magazine experts are being too blinkered if they write off the potential for consumer magazines delivered as high value advertising through digital editions. One can begin to get the flavour of this digital potential if one looks at the free sampler that we now have running for Dazed & Confused. On this page note the discreet link to, or the Blackdice ad with its phone number. Within the index of advertisers there is a wealth of linkage that can be used to generate instant targetted responses for advertisers. That is a nexus which the magazine reader and the advertiser need to see integrated through the digital magazine.