Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The (Dubious) Bull Case for Magazines

Want a break from gloom and doom about the state of the magazine industry? The industry’s trade association is happy to help. Or at least, to try to help.

This morning Nina Link, the CEO of Magazine Publishers of America, presented a state-of-the-industry talk for a conference call hosted by J.P. Morgan, as part of its “virtual advertising & marketing summit.”

Don’t worry if you missed it–the accompanying slides, which I’ve embedded below, do a good job of summing up Link’s presentation. And I can do the same in a couple sentences: Things aren’t great, but they could be worse. And they’ve got to get better: People like magazines!

I actually agree with part of Link’s thesis: People do like magazines, and will continue to do so. In fact, the more time I spend creating and consuming online content, the more value I see in print titles. They’re a refreshing break from the relentless crush of the Web, which tends to make really good stuff read and feel just the same as really bad stuff.

Also, as my old employer and current Forbes Media investor, Roger McNamee, likes to point out, you can read magazines on the toilet.

But none of that changes the real problem magazines face, which isn’t going away: Publishers rely on advertising for most of their revenue, and advertisers are increasingly moving their money to the Web.

And almost none of the publishers have figured out how what to do about that–Time Warner’s (TWX) Time Inc., which has been perhaps the most aggressive about getting on the Internet, gets only 10 percent of its revenue from the Web.

Surely more will follow suit, but when they do, they’ll face a new problem: The clichéd-but-true “analog dollars for digital pennies” phenomenon, which means that the same content becomes much less valuable once you move it from print to the Web.

But you’ve heard plenty about that and will continue to hear about it going forward, and I promised you the bull case. So here you go. Click on “full screen” button to make this pitch legible and right arrow button to page through the presentation.

MPA presentationFree Legal Forms

[Image Credit: dickuhne]

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik