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.
What analysts and marketers like about the internet is that everything is measurable – as pointless as it may be in many cases. Yet there is a bunch of internet stats that are helpful or at least entertaining. The latter is in my view a website that analysed Google searches and looked at how popular product search terms were in the pandemic.
For the printing industry most categories are of limited interest as mostly consumer goods made it to the searched item roster. Keywords and categories were sourced from Google product taxonomy. Results are restricted to searches on Google Shopping in the US only. The analysis ranked products and their search terms into three groups.
Starting into the new year is a good time to have a look at the European print production developments in 2021. For the full revenue data to trickle in we have to wait several months – even for the first countries to report. The full data on Eurostat might be even two years out as Eurostat just about managed to publish 2019 revenues now.
The next best thing is to look at the monthly production index data published by Eurostat. Data is now available until October 2021. The best fitting category in the database is “print and reproduction of media” – with print production making up the lions share in that category. The data is based on the average 2015 volumes as being 100 index points. Starting values in the 90s for 2019 shows that print production volumes already declined before the pandemic hit in early 2020.
If something is illustrating the current shortage in paper it is the rising costs of recovered paper. The chart shows German recovered paper prices – indexed for 2015 as 100%. China, once the main destination of recovered paper closed their borders for most waste materials in 2018 – which includes most recovered paper. This sent recovered paper prices into a tailspin. The bottom was reached during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, when everything came to a standstill, at about 20% of the 2015 prices.
In many European countries door drops are a huge alternative to addressed direct mail. The DMA just published their 2021 Annual Door Drop Industry Report for the UK. It might not be a huge surprise that door drop volumes and revenues were dropping in 2020 – after all the pandemic forced many businesses to restrict activity and scale down marketing. Yet a 33.6% drop for 2020 is quite drastic.