Conde Nast chief: Mags' global expansion will slow

The magazine industry is running out of opportunities to grow overseas, the chairman of Conde Nast International told the Fipp World Magazine Congress in London today.

In a keynote speech this afternoon, Jonathan Newhouse said the magazine publishing giants have already conquered most of the major worldwide economies, and international growth was likely to slow down.

Conde Nast International has expanded rapidly, publishing titles including GQ, Vogue and Glamour in more than 25 countries worldwide.

“There are markets left to develop but with a few exceptions they tend to be smaller and less wealthy,” he said.

“We no longer have the possibility to develop by expanding our most profitable brands into the richest virgin markets.

“The development will be less dramatic than the growth of the past 20 years unless space exploration turns up some overlooked readers on Mars.”

Newhouse received a round of applause from delegates when he dismissed talk of the death of print as “nonsense”.

But he went on to admit that the industry was facing a difficult period and said that publishers who ignored the potential of the internet and mobile did so at their peril.

“To those who believe that paper and print will disappear, I have only one word to pronounce – nonsense,” he said.

“Some critics say in the future only older people will read magazines. They say the new generation will abandon printed products for the handheld telephone and the computer screen. There is little proof in this claim.”

Online

Newhouse said “quite a few” of Conde Nast’s websites made money in 2007, but it was harder to turn a profit in the current environment.

He said online advertising was “to some extent a buyer’s market, not a seller’s market” – but he said publishers’ ability to make money online would improve.

“The potential of magazine websites to reach new customers is simply enormous,” he told delegates.

“It constitutes the greatest consumer marketing tool we have ever possessed – enabling magazines to inexpensively build subscriptions.”

He added: “Any international magazine brand that is not currently developing mobile content is taking a risk.”

Despite his optimism for the future of the printed word, Newhouse acknowledged that the coming years would be difficult.

He said rising rents had forced a number of newsagents and magazine vendors to close down, forcing publishers to turn to subscriptions to make up for lost newsstand sales.

“You don’t have to figure out it’s going to get tougher for international magazine brands,” he said.

“Some magazine brands may suffer and even fall by the wayside. We are already seeing it here and there.”

But his advice to publishers was simply to “make a great magazine”.

“It’s easy to say and it’s damn hard to do. But that’s the name of the game.

“Dazzle your readers. Inform them. Inspire them and grip their imagination. Do it with conviction and emotion.

“Love your readers and your advertisers and they will love you back. The future can be golden and if you love magazines you can make it come true.”]

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