By Elizabeth Djinis for Poynter
Since their peak in the ’90s, print media companies have sought strategies and new publications that might save them from their financial woes.
The check-out line at the grocery store might seem the least likely place for that solution to arise.
Yet single-theme magazines like “The Complete Guide to It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Bob Saget: Tribute to America’s Dad,” part of a genre called special interest publications or bookazines, have become a surprising winner in the magazine media market.
The two biggest publishers of these magazines, Dotdash Meredith and a360media, control almost 60% of the marketplace based on revenue, according to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, founder of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism and New Media and founder and director of the Magazine Media Center. In fact, says a spokesperson for a360media, special interest magazines are the only magazine segment to achieve growth in the last few years. Special interest publications grew 8% in 2020 and 20% in 2021, year over year, per the spokesperson. Magazines not in this category declined by 10 to 20% over the same period.
This growing investment in special interest publications shows how much the commercial strategy of the magazine industry has changed.
“It is completely the opposite of the business model of the 20th century for magazines,” Husni said. “We used to have the magazine almost for free, selling the customers to the advertisers, giving the content to the customers. Now we are in the business of selling the content to the customers.”
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