Magazine head scratching

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The New York Times’ David Carr and Lorne Manly take an indepth look at the state of the magazine industry. They see lots of problems for the “middle class” of the industry:

This transformation of the industry is putting the screws to the middle class of the magazine world. Entrepreneurs will still be able to start small because the barriers to entry to the magazine industry are still the lowest of the major media. But for those operating in the muddle of midsize publishing companies, with annual revenue for their consumer publications hovering from $50 million to $500 million, the business is more of a challenge than ever. Outfits like Wenner Media, Rodale, and even somewhat larger organizations like Meredith and Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, a unit of Lagardère, may find themselves squeezed by the market and pursued by bigger rivals.

Also, there are challenges for all:

But it takes a minimum of $50 million to create a profitable national magazine franchise of substantial size, and both public and privately owned companies do not want to bet on a plain old good idea.

It takes the writers a couple of thousand words to get to the “kind of innovation” magazines need although they don’t call it what it is, custom publishing:

Companies like Time Inc. are exploring a different strategy: finding shortcuts in the system. Hypothetically, there will come a time when, a retailer like Gap is approached by Time Inc. with a magazine idea for young, fashion-conscious teens, not merely to place ads, but to market subscriptions at the point of sale. The credit card is out, the consumer is in the mood, and a friendly clerk is chatting up the offer to “try three issues for free. “By partnering with a national retailer and offering equity participation Time Inc. could end up generating a rate base that would have otherwise cost tens of millions of dollars to develop. It is just the kind of innovation that could put the magazine business on a much more stable footing, and exactly the type of solution that will work only for the biggest companies.

I take great exception to that last sentence. And exactly why does the Gap need Time?