Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Fortune & Other Media Are Shrinking...Their Offices & Number of Issues They Publish + Why it Matters

We've seen a possible new media trend that involves downsizing but not necessarily the downsizing you first think of.

Some media are downsizing their office space. As recently noted in the Boston Globe by Jon Chesto (@jonchesto), two local papers, the Salem News and the Herald News as well as publishers from Los Angeles to Miami are moving into smaller offices because they can no longer justify their older, larger offices in part because the papers have laid off staff members. This follows similar moves by the Boston Globe and Boston Herald. According to Chesto, "Many of their buldings are local icons, fuxtres in their respective cities' downtowns. But they were built for a different time in the media business." 

That's a trend that, unfortunately, is likely continue, creating a potential downward spiral. According to Chesto, "The downside: Newspaper companies are left with fewer hard assets, as operating performance declines. That can make them less attractive to potential buyers and lenders," which may make it more challenging to attract digitally-focused enterprises.

The other part of the trend is that Fortune magazine is downsizing its publishing schedule. Not that long ago, Fortune published twice a month or 24 issues. Currently, "Fortune is published monthly with two double issues (June and December), for a total of 14 issues," according to the publishing statement inside the print edition available in the Jan. 2020 issue.

But Fortune just  announced that it is downsizing its publishing schedule as of Feb. 2020 to 10 times a year. The magazine says this will allow for bigger issues and investment in digital content, including a paywall. The magazine will offer three tiers of subscriptions: digital-only ($49), digital plus print ($99) and Premium ($199) which offers videos from Fortune conferences and other exlusive content.

The downshift in the number of publications will make competition to get content into the magazine harder. That said, there may be more digital content, behind the paywall, but that still may limit the influence of a Fortune article.

We do expect other publications to shrink their publishing schedule. Forbes, which used publish twice monthly, now publishes nine times a year "except for four issues combined periodically into two and occasional extra, expanded, or premium issues. Combined, expanded, and premium issues count as two subscription issues." Is that clear? Fast Company and Wired both publish 10 issues a year, down from 12. So "monthly" doesn't mean what it used to.

Forbes has made an effort to push more digital content but has done so by tapping a community of vetted contributors (who, it is important to note, are not reporters).

Ultimately, our point, is that smaller staffs and fewer issues could lead to a few things:
  1. Less opportunity for marketers due to reduced frequency of issues and the possibility of smaller print issues.
  2. The need for reporters and editors decreases if you're publishing nine issues instead of 24 per year.
  3. People will become less reliant on a magazine if they're not seeing it as frequently. One of our colleagues thought that his subscription for Forbes and Fortune had expired because he thought he had stopped receiving them, only to find out the number of issues had decreased. "With more time between issues, I find I don't think about what Forbes or Fortune is doing," he said. "It's out of sight, out of mind, and yet they're still publishing and still interesting. But now they generally make a stir primarily with their signiture issues like the Fobres 400 or the Fortune 500. That's a shame."
All of which could portend to media that's in a downward spiral.

There is some good news: Business Insider has some strong growth trends. BI hopes to reach 1M paid subscribers (currently there are 200,000), generate 1B unqiue visitors per month (currently it gets 375,000/month) and to double its newsroom. We'd love for that to be a new trend.

No comments: