Published on: February 11, 2022
We had a story yesterday about how IAC/InterActiveCorp, the media group owned by Barry Diller, announced that it will end the print publication of six magazines that it gained control of last year with its acquisition of Meredith Corp.
Several of the six magazines are familiar to people who spend time at supermarket front ends: Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, EatingWell, Health, Parents and People en Español.
In an internal memo, Dotdash Meredith CEO Neil Vogel said that "the company plans on investing in its 19 remaining print magazines - which include People, Better Homes & Gardens and Southern Living - by enhancing paper quality and trimming sizes. Dotdash Meredith also plans to invest $80 million in 2022 in content across all brands."
I'm not sure it will just be naysayers who will see this is as a nail in print's coffin. The thing is, just spending more money on the remaining print properties doesn't strike me as a compelling narrative for how they will survive in a market that seems to be all headwinds. That's not to say they can't - the argument that Diller's company was buying lifestyle brands, not magazines, is a compelling one. (And there's a metaphor here for bricks-and-mortar food retailers, who maybe ought to think of themselves as lifestyle brands, not just as the repository for other people's brands.)
But somebody has to explain the narrative - explain to me how the content disseminated by People, Better Homes & Gardens and Southern Living is best absorbed through better paper quality as opposed to a vibrant website.
I started out as a daily newspaper reporter. I love print. I'm open to the argument. I just don't hear anyone making it in a compelling way.
One MNB reader responded:
I worked in the retail sales segment of print magazines for five years, with the largest publisher that no longer exists. My job was eliminated because of the precipitous decline in retail sales of print magazines. Sales of print magazines may have been artificially maintained by automatically renewable subscriptions, which were bound to ultimately decline. The issue was not that people no longer wanted to read magazines, but rather that the content provided by magazines was made obsolete by the internet.
Think about entertainment, celebrity, and sports news and how quickly you are able customize what you want to see. I think there is still a place for hobby-based publications, like automotive or crafts that amalgamate resources into one place.
It puzzles me to see that someone is still paying for front-end, magazine rack space in food stores. Of course, the retailers will take the money, but someone has to realize that they are paying for exposure and retailer space that does not generate a return on investment.
Responding to my piece about a company that wants to turn returns into a subscription business, one MNB reader wrote:
Good morning Kevin,
I brought an item back to Kohls that I received from Amazon and the experience was wonderful! I printed off label but it back in box and dropped it off, within a couple hours I received the money back on my card and a discount to shop in Kohls if I wanted to.
It took all the fears away!
Yesterday we took note of a Globe and Mail report that the Weston Family Foundation, named for the family behind the Loblaws grocery chain and Weston Foods, has announced ther spending of more than $25 million (US) on an "innovation hub" designed to bolster the country's food security through the use of "new technologies to grow fruits and vegetables year-round in Canada."
MNB reader Carl Jorgensen wrote:
This is so interesting to see this happening in Canada. The pandemic has brought the inherent fragility of long global supply chains into sharp relief. The risks associated with breakdowns in these supply chains is perhaps most pronounced in the food sector, because we are talking about food security. Significant disruptions in food supplies could potentially lead to dangerous shortages of key foods, even in developed countries. That’s something we usually don’t think can happen here, but the possibility is real.
I have been working on a project for the U.S. plant-based foods industry to help reduce companies’ reliance on imported ingredients, and instead build robust domestic supply chains. A nice benefit of this initiative is that it brings the opportunities of a fast-growing sector to American farmers and rural communities.
On a different subject, MNB reader Steve Burbridge wrote:
Finished "Reacher" (the Amazon TV series) this morning (early morning, indoor bike ride). Great finish leaving me wanting for more.
By the way, "Reacher" has been renewed for a second season. According to Deadline, "Amazon said that 'Reacher' ranked in its top five most-watched series ever in the U.S. and globally over a 24-hour period – though it’s worth noting that all eight episodes of the series launched at once. The company added that it also was among its highest-rated original series, with subscribers giving it an average rating of 4.7 out of 5."
I wrote yesterday about the passing, at age 85, of Syl Johnson, a widely respected Chicago blue and soul singer known for being an enormous influence on the hip-hop community, has passed away. I'd never heard of him before, but was blown away by his music, which prompted one MNB reader to write:
WOW is right, I never heard of him either…terrific! Thanks for the introduction.