retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The digital economy has claimed two more victims, in this case magazines that have been around for decades.

The Wall Street Journal reports that after 40 years, Soldier of Fortune magazine is shutting down its print edition and is transitioning entirely to an online version.

According to the story, "Aging readership - the magazine is largely read by Vietnam vets - and changes to the business of freelance warfare, had taken their toll on circulation and the number of ad pages." At its height, Soldier of Fortune had a staff of 50 and sold 150,000 copies a month; it no longer discloses sales numbers.

Meanwhile, Advertising Age reports that More magazine, the self-described "magazine for style and substance" since 1997, is shutting down.

Owner Meredith Corp. blamed the decision on "advertising challenges in the luxury marketplace," as well as a drop in circulation numbers, and said that will invest instead in "more profitable activities."

Being a product of print journalism - both newspapers and magazines - I have some understanding of the challenges facing the old world order. I think it is entirely possible for such enterprises to find their way through the challenges of a digital economy; I'm constantly amazed by how The New Yorker, for example, has adapted ... with expanded online coverage as well as podcasts, video offerings and even live events that, in its own way, looks to create a kinds of New Yorker ecosystem.

(I got an email the other day from someone who said that he was surprised to learn that The New Yorker was still being published. He clearly wasn't paying attention, because I refer to the magazine a lot here on MNB, and continue to believe that it may be the best general interest magazine being published today. In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that 30 years ago I spent a bit of time doing public relations for The New Yorker, and had my copy edited by the legendary William Shawn. I must confess, however, that I have no idea where he would've come down on the one space/two spaces controversy.)

Like retail entities, print publications can adapt ... or will die. By adapting, I don't mean just creating online versions of what they've traditionally done. I think one has to rethink the entire approach to content when moving online, and find ways to differentiate yourself instead of doing the same old thing.

Clearly, Soldier of Fortune and More didn't really figure this out. It is an Eye-Opener.
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