PC Magazine goes online-only + More Bad News for Newspapers

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After 27 years, PC Magazine goes online-only, in part because ad revenue is falling. Its last print edition will be in Jan. 2009. What’s significant is that “PC Magazine is Ziff Davis’ Flagship magazine.

According to the Times, “The change will not require much of an adjustment, because the focus has been on getting articles to the Web first, said Lance Ulanoff, the editor of the PCMag Digital Network, which is what PCMag.com and its accompanying Web sites were renamed on Wednesday. “All content goes online first, and print has been cherry-picking for some time what it wants for the print edition,” Mr. Ulanoff said.

Here’s a key point:

  • “If you look at the list of the magazines that have gone to online, almost all of them have been magazines in trouble,” said John Fennell, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. “Magazines in general are going to be dependent on print advertising for a long time into the future,” he said.
  • But magazine and newspaper publishers have been contending with a decline in advertising at the same time that their costs, including ink, printing, and distribution, are rising.

And we can expect further bad news: “Advertising pages for the December issues of monthly magazines are down more than 17 percent from the December issues of 2007, according to the Media Industry Newsletter, and that is leading to layoffs and the closing of titles.”

Even more foreboding is a report that Harvard Square’s iconic Out of Town News will be closing after more than 50 years. Here’s how the Boston Globe reported it, Plan to shutter newsstand pierces heart of Harvard Sq.
:

“It is not the profitable location for us that it once was,” said Laura Samuels, spokeswoman for the owner, Hudson News of East Rutherford, N.J.

“The possible demise caused shock and dismay yesterday in Harvard Square, where shoppers took it as a wrenching sign of a rapidly changing world, where print news is dying…”

If people are not buying print newspapers and magazine in Harvard Square, what’s the likelihood they will continue to buy them elsewhere?

But here’s the real problem even for online-only publications: Costs are down, but they are more dependent on advertising than ever since none of them currently charge for online subscriptions. How will they make money when advertising is down?

Meanwhile, the Boston Business Journal reports that the Boston Globe is losing $1 million a week, which prompted the paper’s latest redesign that cut 24 pages each week and latest buyout rounds. (However, the Globe’s new “g” section now offers more comics than ever — is that really what we want or need?) The Globe’s problems are impacting parent NY Times’ cash flow. No one is suggesting the Times is going under, but it certainly must be considering how to divest itself of the Globe.

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