Whenever someone asks what I study, I tell them magazine, and wait for the cringe to cross their face. “But isn’t the industry falling apart? Why on earth would you ever choose to go into something that’s on its way out. You’re basically dooming your chances of finding a job after college.” I’ve heard it all. I always respond the same way…I say no, I don’t think the industry is falling apart, no I’m not worried about jobs, and if worst comes to worst (which isn’t that bad in my book) I’ll go bar tend on one of the Greek islands, save up money and travel. Saving and spending. Honestly though, I’m not worried.
Even though Condé Nast just announced its closing of Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, I’m not worried. Cookie is a brand new baby glossy that started in 2005, and Modern Bride and Elegant Bride are offshoots of larger Bride Magazines that Condé owns so it’s only natural that consolidation cuts them out. Gourmet’s folding came as a bit of a surprise since it’s considered a dinosaur in the food industry. It’s been around since 1941 and its editor, Ruth Reichl, is really powerful in the food world.
But fear not. I don’t just think the magazine industry will survive, I know it will. I may sound overly cocky or optimistic to some but let me explain my rational once and for all.
The industry is morphing, changing, rather than crumbling and folding. People today want their news immediately. They hardly read 500 word stories anymore– newspapers are struggling to figure out how to deal, but magazines are fine. Why? Because of niche audiences. Magazines are so highly specialized for readers who have one or two common interests, that unlike newspapers, they will always survive. Little girls will always want their feature stories on the latest hot male celebrity– even GQ’s piece on Rob Pattinson (vampire Edward Cullan) sold an outrageous newsstand count, and GQ has a predominantly male audience. What does that tell us? Girls saw his sexy face on the cover and whipped out a fiver.
Or take sports fans: though they get game updates and scores texted to their iPhones, they still want to read about the personalities behind the players. There is a cross section of sports fans who will never give up the sensationalism of sports magazine journalism. And we all know that Sports Illustrated readers will never, ever give up the swim suit edition. No way, no how. People like to hold a magazine in their hands, they like to feel the pages, smell the perfume samples, page through the ads, rip out pages and tape them up, read at their leisure, and sometimes even save issues.
So though magazine sales are going down, editors are figuring out how to adapt to the changing industry with podcasts, websites, blogs, texting, quizzes, free give-aways, direct mailing etc. It’s working. Magazines are alive and well, and there are jobs out there– you just have to know where to look and have the right connections.
Here’s my theory: Print will never completely go away, people like to hold a physical magazine too much to give it up. With the move to web, Bill Gates will be making nickels and dimes compared to the person who figures out effective online advertising. Thats the biggest challenge. No one likes to X out of pop up ads, and rarely do people actually ever click on ads. So there has to be a way for advertising to work. Expect another shift in the magazine industry when that happens. But I stand firm by my claim that the magazine industry will never die. Sure it’s changing, but what good, growing business industry doesn’t go through change right? So no, I’m not worried about finding a job after college and yes I still think you will be reading magazines in 50 years, your kids will be reading them in 75 years, and your grandkids will be reading them in 100 years.