TONY’S LAST WORD
THE INTERNATIONAL advertising boom of the past few years has disguised the fact that the media landscape is changing irrevocably. But when Time Inc, the biggest magazine publisher in the United States, laid off 289 people last week, closed seven bureaus and put up 18 magazines for sale there was nowhere left to hide.
Blame was laid squarely at the door of the digital revolution. Even though Time and other conventional publishers have seen the writing on the wall – and have invested heavily in online options – digital publishing isn’t as profitable as conventional publishing. Because so much information was given away free on the Internet, advertisers have got used to its cheapness and publishers battle to gain acceptance of realistic ad rates.
The layoffs, said Time Inc, were the result of a necessary restructuring of the business into a multi-platform publisher.
The rise in digital publishing may also have played a role in cutting newsstand circulations in the US. Sports Illustrated sold 135 000 copies/ issue on the newsstands in 1995; now the figure is 99 000/issue.
Although the new medium has been handicapped in SA by high online transmission costs, the pressures are building to reduce them. When that happens, much the same influences will come to bear on the media in this country. So in the nottoo-distant future, old-fashioned publishing will also have to face up to competition from lower advertising rates.