The future of niche magazine publishers continues to look gloomy

By our News Team | 2021

Over the past decade only the strongest trade magazines have survived, as advertising revenues plummet. Can the hold-outs still thrive?

SMEs proliferate the trade media sector. For over 20 years, Mike Leahy, founder and MD of South African-based company, Media Manager, has tracked trade publications.

“There has been a drop in the number of titles from a high of 775 in 2008 to 395 in 2020, and numbers continue to plummet. Covid-19 on its own did not change the landscape. It’s a case of compressing the events of the past five years into one,” he says.

Consistent increases in print costs, the collapse of the Post Office, declining ad spend, changing technology and constantly shifting reader behaviour have all played their role.

“Let’s face it, the numbers game is the bottom line. If our products do not get feet in store or eyes online, they are not working. The decline in advertising spend is real and not restricted to one medium,” Jason Aarons, Director of Isikhova Media, another South African publishing house, says. 

“We continue to engage with advertisers, real time or Zoom time, to come up with solutions which are affordable. We package advertising across titles, emailers, and social media and work around payment plans where required.”   

Weighing options

Remaining the number one choice of readers and advertisers of niched publishing remains a key indicator of sustainability. There are many tales of unscrupulous and aggressive publishers who fudge their circulation figures. Some also adopt a bullying approach to selling once-off advertising. 

Leahy suggests advertisers weigh up their options, select the brand with a deep understanding of their readers, study and verify circulation statistics. Then select the one or two that come out tops.

He adds: “Probably, many should not have survived in the first place. In some sectors there were five or more titles competing for ad spend, the single source of income for most of them. Those publishers who could not change closed down; only the nimble continue to publish.”