Magazines may die but the medium can thrive
I once staged a funeral service for a television set.
It was quite moving.
Everyone wore black and gathered at the (shallow) grave.
From above, it was quite photogenic. Which was fortunate, as it was an image staged for a magazine cover.
Almost a decade on, the back lawn of my house in south London has still not fully recovered.
The feature – for Media Week UK – was looking at media brands that were no longer with us.
We paid our respects to the likes of The Face magazine and, if memory serves, Smash Hits.
You see, long before it became automatic to blame the rise of digital for the death of media brands, they were still dying off. And media journalists were writing about them.
Now it’s become too easy to blame digital for the decline of every media brand. The truth is that some brands just go out of fashion as tastes change. We’ve always understood that about television – individual shows come and go, sometimes not even lasting a whole series.
It’s nothing new – we’ve just passed the 20th anniversary of Kerry Packer famously taking Australia’s Naughtiest Home Videos off air before it even made it to the first ad break.
It’s been the same for magazines. There have always been magazines closing as their audience abandons them.
What’s been different in recent years though, is that there have not been new magazines following them down the launch track.
Our funeral took place, for example, before the enormously successful launch of Zoo magazine.
But it takes a lot of investment to successfully launch a magazine, and there’s not been the stomach for that in recent years.
And that’s why I don’t see the decision of Bauer to close Grazia as epoch-defining as people seem to think. Not least, because Elle is on the launch track. That’s the natural scheme of things. Do something about your under-performers and keep investing.
The key is to keep investing. Magazines have a future yet. It just takes an understanding of what the audience wants, and a willingness to invest in that.
A bit of self belief is still rewarded by advertisers. And the public still does respond to original content, regardless of the medium.
I hope Elle doesn’t end up the last print magazine Australia sees launch. It needn’t be.
Closures and launches are a natural part of the magazine life cycle.
Done properly, we media journalists will be digging graves for magazines for many years to come.
Tim Burrowes is the editor-in-chief of Encore.