Layoffs, consolidation, and restructuring are plaguing the headlines as major publishers Time Inc., Hearst Magazines and Condé Nast are struggling to stay prosperous in a world where the popularity of print media is tumbling downward.
According to data from October 2017 by the technology and strategy consulting firm Activate, the average American spends only four percent of their media consumption hours with print, compared to twenty percent on personal computers and twenty-eight percent on mobile (Sherman).
As previously reported in The New York Times, smaller publishers such as Rodale are also feeling the burn of the declining print business which caused the family-owned publisher of Runner’s World and Men’s Health to be acquired by Hearst Magazines.
According to Sydney Ember of The Times, this acquisition is “another sign of consolidation in an industry struggling to offset declines in print.”
The decline in print media is due to the changing technology in which people consume this media, in addition to the rocky state of American retail. In July of 2006, Women’s Wear Daily reported on how fashion companies such as Ralph Lauren and Gap Inc. have decreased their print advertising.
In my opinion, Millennials have driven away from the traditional American retail and print media spaces, resulting in havoc raised among giant publishers who are now forced to consolidate their companies in order to make up for losses in the print media and advertising revenue sectors.
When news of smaller publisher Rodale going under and becoming acquired by Hearst broke, I asked myself “how are the large publishers such as Time Inc., Hearst Magazines, and Condé Nast actually doing?”
I automatically assumed these giants of the industry had nothing to worry about, simply because they published uber-popular magazines such as People, Cosmopolitan, and Vogue.
Delving deeper into research, I quickly realized my assumption was wrong.
Starting with my personal favorite publisher Condé Nast, I discovered that the company is said to be currently losing more much money than it did last year in 2016 (Steigrad, Condé Nast Employees).
Moving onto the highest revenue making publisher in the United States, according to Spyglass Intelligence LLC, Time Inc. is also undergoing heavy cuts.
In recent months, the company has been reported getting ready to sell its Time UK division, which publishes magazines including Wallpaper, World Soccer and British versions of Marie Claire and In Style.
It’s reported that the private equity firm Epiris is closing in on a deal to buy the London-based division for just under $200 million (Kelly).
Lastly, though it may seem that Hearst Magazines is not in any hot water like the other publishers, reports say otherwise. With talks of job and budget cuts spreading, Hearst Magazine’s president David Carey spoke to Women’s Wear Daily saying, “We’ve had a great first half following a great 2014 and 2015, but we’re watching the state of American retail with some concern.
We are asking our teams to be especially careful about their discretionary spending” (Steigrad, Hearst Tightens Budgets).
Being the avid print magazine consumer that I am, I was shocked and honestly a little concerned when I read this news.
The next question that popped into my thoughts was “what actions are these publishers taking in order to stay afloat?”
With the shares of Time Inc. falling 3.4% on a day where the Dow Jones industrial average topped 23,000 for the first time, the idea of change was floating in the minds of the top executives of Time Inc. (Kelly).
To combat the struggling state of the print industry, Time Inc. cut Velarde 3 200 jobs and introduced a restructuring plan for the company.
Hearst Magazines followed a similar plan of attack by having a hiring slowdown and tightening budgets across the board (Steigrad, Hearst Tightens Budgets).
However, Condé Nast took a very interesting approach in fighting off the decline in print media.
They accepted it.
With the first two quarterly editions of Teen Vogue only averaging about 22,590 single-copy sales, versus an average of 47,689 per issue in the first half of 2015, Condé Nast realized the consumers of the magazine were not necessarily avid spenders on print media anymore.
As of October of 2017, Teen Vogue’s average monthly unique visitors online for the year were 8.27 million.
In what I believe to be an extremely smart move, Condé Nast decided to end the print publication of Teen Vogue, in addition to shrinking their print presence of GQ, Glamour, Allure and Architectural Digest from 12 issues to 11, Bon Appétit from 11 issues to 10 and W and Condé Nast Traveler from 10 issues to 8 (Sherman).
Condé Nast is not completely abandoning the print industry, they are realizing and accepting the change people are having over to digital media.
Furthermore, Condé Nast has launched a new LGBTQ media brand titled Them, which is only available online.
The brainchild of Teen Vogue’sPhillip Picardi,Them serves to cover news and politics with an activist stance, advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ community, shine a light on cultural figures who are not typically recognized and have genderless fashion and beauty coverage (Fernandez).
This is an extremely smart move for Condé Nast!
The creation of Them shows the world that Condé Nast is not only keeping up the times but that they are much more than just print media.
They are proving to the world that they have been, still are and will continue to be relevant to the people of today. It does not matter whether consumers use print or digital media, Condé Nast is the publisher that will provide consumers with whatever they desire.
I believe it would be quite wise if Time and Hearst emulated Condé Nast and began to cut some of their own underperforming print magazines to be replaced online.
After weighing in on all my research, I asked myself one last question “what is the state of publishers and print media going forward into the future?”
Though one can only make an educationally driven speculation about the future, I believe the future for publishers and print media, to my own dismay, is quite bleak.
I do not foresee any growth in the way consumers read print media.
Due to the changing habits of the Millennials and generation Z, print media will continue its fall in the shadows of digital media.
For publishers to stay alive during this time they must consolidate, restructure and terminate the print publications of their under-performing magazines.
If a publisher wishes to not merely stay afloat but thrive during this time, I suggest they enter into the digital media space and fast.
Its my belief that in the future, smaller publishers such as Martha StewartLiving Omnimedia, Bonnier and Werner Media will become acquired by one of the three giant publishers simply because the publishing world is becoming too cut-throat.
Regardless, I cannot imagine that Time Inc., Heart Magazines nor Condé Nast will ever go under in the future, regardless of how troubled the print industry is doing.
Overall, in consequence of the younger percentage of the population steering away from the traditional American retail and print media spaces, the livelihood of publishers big and small is in trouble.
Major publishers Time Inc., Hearst Magazines and Condé Nast are now forced to consolidate their companies in order to make up for losses in the print media and advertising revenue sectors.
As the average American continually reduces the amount of time they spend consuming print media, the chance that the print media industry will bounce back in the future is almost impossible.
I suggest that publishers take the steps of consolidating and restructuring their companies, terminating their companies underperforming print publications and entering into the digital media space if they wish to be prosperous in the new world of digital media.