Hold the Eulogies! I Think I Found Some Okay News for Print Journalism

Lately, my posts on print journalism have been something like a catalog of doom. There was this graph, a.k.a. "How Print Newspaper Ad Revenue Climbed a Mountain and Fell off a Cliff on the Other Side":

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Equally discouraging was this graph, which suggests that print advertising still has a long way to fall, as readers are taking their valuable attention to mobile:

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Where are the happier graphs? I found some in a new survey from PriceWaterhouseCoopers on the outlook for magazine publishing around the world. Upshot: Worldwide magazine advertising is growing ... but not in print, and not in North America. The hard lines in the graph below are digital ad revenue. The dotted lines are print.

Screen Shot 2012-06-12 at 1.03.10 PM.png

The good news about magazines is that we pick them up to devote our focus to them. TV, radio, music: These are perfect media to have in the background while doing something else, like driving, or talking, or typing. Media consumers are least likely to multitask with a magazine. That's a nice story to tell advertisers.

But as magazines go online, they risk serving their stuff in a way that makes it indistinguishable from newspapers, blogs, and random sites, which all flash with the same pixels within the same laptop screen. PwC asked respondents in 10 countries if they would still subscribe to their favorite magazines if they were online only. In every country except Russia, India, and China, less than 60% said yes.

The bad news about magazines is that print advertising isn't growing .. at least in North America. That leaves magazines with two choices: Invest globally, which is risky and expensive; or diversify away from print, using the flagship publication as an anchor for a broader marketing strategy.


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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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