Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mileposts: Two notable print closures

It's been a week of bad news for print media.  Newspaper revenues continue to slide, despite some upticks in digital subscriptions and advertising (see earlier post), and print's share of time spent with media has dropped more than 50% in the last four years, now accounting for a mere 3.5% of U.S. adult time spent with media (see previous post).  Now comes news that two notable print institutions are ceasing print operations.

Officials with publishing conglomerate Meredith Corp. announced today that the venerable Ladies Home Journal will no longer be published as a monthly magazine.  The title will transition to a special-interest quarterly publication sold exclusively at newsstands.  The Ladies Home Journal began publishing 131 years ago, and was the first U.S. magazine to reach a circulation of 1 million (111 years ago).  The company announced that the magazine's 3.2 million current subscribers will be shifted to other Meredith-owned publications.  Meredith indicated that its magazine division saw advertising revenue drop about 15% in the last year, while overall operating expenses rose about 8%, contributing to a 37% drop in profit levels.

The problem with the magazine was not its readers, but with advertising.  The number of ad pages had fallen 23% this year; but the problem was that that was only the latest of several years of double-digit declines.  Another of the pioneering "Seven Sisters" of women's service magazines, McCall's, closed in 2002 after years of losses that were also blamed on declining ad pages and aging audiences.  The last issue will bear a July 2014 publication date.

The announcement comes on the heels of the news that the Columbia University student newspaper, the Columbia Daily Spectator will drop its daily print edition.  Starting with the upcoming Fall term, the paper will be shifting its efforts to its online edition combined with a weekly print edition.  In fact, the new weekly edition will be folded into the Spectator's current weekly, called The Eye.  The Spectator began publishing as a student newspaper in 1877, and was the second-oldest continuously operating college newspaper in the U.S.  It began operating as a daily newspaper in 1902.

With this move, Columbia becomes the first (and so far only) Ivy League school without a daily student-run newspaper.  While stressing that it wasn't an economic decision, the paper's current Publisher did admit that the print edition was losing money this year, and hoped that the move would help free up funding to supplement a work-study program used to support staffers.

One alumnus, former managing editor Robert Hardt, Jr., commented that he had mixed feelings about the move:
“It’s the end of an era—but it probably means that Spec reporters will miss fewer classes and get better grades...”

Sources -  Ladies Home Journal to cease monthly publication, The Des Moines Register
 Ladies Home Journal to Fold After 131 Years in Print, Ad Age
Columbia student paper plans to drop daily print edition, Capital New York

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