Finweek English Edition - - Advertising & marketing -

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.

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