Magazines: no profit in shift to Internet

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This is interesting comments coming from industry executives gathered at a two-day Magazine Media 2.0 conference in Hannover last week.

After spending millions of dollars to buy digital media companies, online advertising firms and search engines, only a few of the 350 magazine and newspaper companies represented at the conference said, in a show of hands, that they were making more than 3 percent of their sales online.

And only one company, Meredith Corporation, the U.S. publisher of 26 magazines including Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Ladies’ Home Journal, said it was making a profit.

Even then, the “significant” profit Meredith is making from its 32 Web sites, according to its chairman, William Kerr, is coming mainly from Web advertising and subscription referrals, not from the digital sale of what is typically a publishing company’s biggest product — text.

“I would also emphasize that the profit from our online operations at Meredith is also driven in no small part by the 80 years of established branding of some of our titles,” Kerr said. “This is not something we did overnight.”

From my own experience working for a radio company, sometimes it is hard and nearly impossible to teach an old dog a new trick. Sometimes, you have a dog, when what you might need is a cat.

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