Cut the Fat Publishers

Written By: Kim - Jan• 11•11

I love magazines. I could spend a lot of my time simply perusing the magazine displays at the bookstores. I am fascinated by their design, subject matter, the paper choice and yes, even the advertisements. I am blessed to have a job I love in magazine publishing.

I subscribe to five magazines and four newspapers. Both industries have suffered huge financial setbacks over the last decade. Advertising revenue, according to the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, has hit rock bottom. Digital, tablet and social media publishing are putting a dent in the traditional print medium and forcing us to rethink how we deliver content. If this shift has occurred, why do many of these magazines still have so many staff? What kind of implosion does it take before we operate with a staff ratio that makes sense?

Business 101 tells me that if my revenue decreases I either have to increase it or cut costs. If current mastheads on magazines are any indication of cutting costs, no wonder the industry is floundering so. It hasn’t learned to publish lean. For example, why does Glamour have 75 editorial staff listed on the February masthead? This number does not even include the advertising, marketing and public relations staff on the following page. This particular issue had 200 pages in it. So, basically, for each page produced, almost one staff member worked on it. Astounding. Ridiculous.

The February issue of Glamour also had “Cover Reads.” Half of these articles were Q&As — the lazy writer’s approach to journalism. Any editor worth her salt won’t allow this many Q&As in one issue. I avoid them in my magazine, and so should you, Glamour staff. Surely you can get your writers to be better wordsmiths. If you want me to read your content, write your content by telling a story.

I serve on a nonprofit board of association magazine publishers — Association Media & Publishing. I learned from a fellow board member that in the publishing world there is a hierarchy: publishers of consumer and business magazines/books, newspaper publishers and association publishers. Apparently, association publishers, a group I have belonged to for some time, are considered bottom dwellers in the publishing world, despite any editorial or design excellence awards we earn. I knew we weren’t famous, but bottom dwellers? Once I got over my shock, I got mad. My response to him: at least we still have a job. Our magazines aren’t folding.

My print publication is not losing ad revenue. In fact, 2010 was the biggest revenue year we have on record. This year is tracking well and we have never lost ad revenue. How many other publishers can brag about that? Name one.

We stay on top of publishing trends. We launched a digital publication in 2007 and an iPad app in 2010. We don’t double bill our members. How many publishers have launched apps and then charged their customers again despite the fact that they already subscribe to the print version? Most of them. This is a sham and should be stopped. This circulation model is outdated.

This is like paying more for something I order online verses purchasing it in a brick and mortar store. Consumers and the business community would crucify retailers if they did this. Yet, in the publishing world, no one blinks an eye.

Association publishers produce award-winning content. We design award-winning covers and spreads. Some of these are the same award contests you enter. We do this with four editorial staff, two advertising staff and a small, local design studio — Bussolati.

Being great at what you do doesn’t mean you have to be top heavy. You find a story and tell it. You deliver relevant content to your audience. You maintain fiscal responsibility by staying lean and working smart. You continue to publish the magazines and newspapers we love.