This is not the end of magazines, it’s not even the beginning of the end. (But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning)


I promise, in a few paragraphs I’ll get around to explaining that photo at the left. But first, let me say, if I wanted to, I could let this blog write itself by filling it with daily links to the posts of journalists, columnists and bloggers who apparently battle writers-block by churning out assemble-by-numbers obituaries of the magazine-industry. Personally, I’ve never known a time when starting a magazine and keeping it going was easy. At Hammock Inc., we have the unique opportunity of actually working on magazine launches — even now, as we speak. (As we can walk and chew-gum at the same time, we’re also into that whole Inter-web thing, as well.)

Over the past couple of decades, I have had the unique opportunity to work with association and corporate clients on launching, relaunching or continuing long-published magazines. One of the magazines we help publish has been around for nearly a century. Another, since the 1930s. But, alas, we’ve also had magazines that died quick (and merciful) deaths — and even others that never quite made it off the launch pad. During the bust, we had a client, a public company, declare bankruptcy and leave us holding a considerable bag of printing and other bills. We paid the vendors, cut back on staff and learned a painful lesson. But even then, I never thought “magazines” were dead.

I’ve always thought that seeing magazines come and go was the natural order of things. But yes, it’s pretty bloody these days. In the magazine industry, there is a lot of “capitulation” taking place. At many large media companies and small, anything that’s not fully nailed down, is being thrown overboard. It’s ugly to see talented people being invited to retire or shown the door. Even magazines and media properties that are profitable, but not performing at budgeted levels, are being shuttered. Some magazine brands that likely have significant value have been boxed up and stored in the attic. So if you want to eat worms, there’s a feast set for you these days.

For example, Julia Boorstin wrote yesterday on that magazines are all about to die. Actually, she didn’t quite go that far, yet she wrote the standard boiler-plate story about magazine layoffs and tigers and bears, oh my. After a few, “this company is laying off this number” and “that company is shutting down that title,” she points (ironically, with a dead link) to a an anonymous blogger who maintains a “death pool” blog about the magazine industry. But surely (to continue the movie reference) somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue.

But wait, what’s that up in the sky? It’s a rainbow, no. It’s. It’s. It’s Mr. Magazine, Samir Husni, who has been tracking magazine launches since Ben Franklin started the Saturday Evening Post. And guess what? And according to Samir, magazine launches are up. As the leading spokesman of the “never give in, never, never, never, give in” school of magazine defenders, Samir sounds downright Churchillian in his post, defending the shores of the magazine homeland:

“So, the next time you hear or read about yet one more magazine biting the dust, just keep in mind that it is not all bad out there. It is just so hard when the times are tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can only see the train coming. I hope

  • Great post Rex…. and no magazines aren’t dead or dying. But they are getting older and more mature. They are not as flexible as the younger generation, nor as lively. They will tell you some wonderful stories, but none of them happened today or even yesterday. Most of the stories either have no lime line or at best happened 21 days ago. So I am not ready to throw out gramps ‘cause he has many productive years ahead of him and he has lots and lots of friends.
    But the young kids in the family now are starting to tell their own stories too. And those stories are fresh, filled with currency and they actually seem to move. Sometimes I even think I can “hear” them.

    I say there is plenty of room for my grandparents and my kids and my grandchildren. But at the end of the day, or in this case at the end of the decade it will be the grandkids that will inherit the most of the earth.

  • Thanks for jumping in, Bo(b). When I was writing this, I was thinking of you and wondering if Samir is Churchill, who would you be?

  • I might have been Eisenhower …. Who in the end saved Churchill’s buttocks

  • For what it’s worth, my kids (13 and 10) watch more YouTube than television, and the boy is active (!) on World of Warcraft. But they also love their Sports Illustrated for Kids and Young Rider magazines, and read a lot of books.

    The right information and entertainment, married to the right format (whether electronic or print), remains the key, to my mind.