The pandemic did show us many processes moving digital. Communication is no exception. There is a huge push to move books to digital, although there are grave disadvantages. Magazine has been a bit under the radar and the declines in circulation in many countries are known. The better to see that launches of print magazines rebounded after the pandemic slump in 2020. According to Mr Magazine, Samir Husni, U.S. print Magazine launches were doubling in 2021 compared to 2020.
Husni has been tracking magazine launches annually for 43 years. The 122 print magazines launched in 2021 are close to 139 in 2019 and 124 in 2017. Although this is way down from the golden ages before the internet achieved mass adoption (333 titles were launched in 2000), it is a sign that publishing of print magazines is a lively market, but different from what it used to.
Interestingly there were a couple of re-launches among the 122 titles. Seems that publishers have learned that a digital presence is sometimes not enough. Some launches in 2021 were more daring, like an US issue of Italian fashion magazine with a page count 400 pages!
Most of the new launches have something in common: they are niche-oriented and often have low frequencies — quarterly or bimonthly. By relying less on advertising but on circulation revenue, they also follow a general trend in print publishing. Accordingly, the magazines have high cover prices, and they are printed on high-quality paper, underscoring the print positioning itself as a premium media channel.
Technology is helping to cater for short run, niche titles. Make-ready and waste came down a lot on traditional presses. Inkjet is even better suited for short runs and print quality and paper latitude is getting there as well. Ink costs for glossy, high coverage magazines might be something to watch out for, however I doubt that the digital print opportunities are sufficiently considered by existing and would-be publishers.
The times of mass magazines are gone, however serving niche interests can be rewarding – which probably large, traditional publishing houses are not that well equipped to serve. Prepress and print capacity are much easier to come by these days, giving upstart publishers a chance to get into printed issues and most likely responsible for doubling the print magazine launches. I am sure that these magazines will find their readers – if printer can find the paper to print.