Yahoo and Google are the big threats now

First it was Simon Kelner suggesting that the term “newspaper” should be replaced with “viewspaper”.

Now
Andrew Neil, a newspaperman through and through, is preaching the
message that newspapers must be more like magazines to survive.

Meanwhile,
magazines have been staking their own claims in newspaper territory.
The mass market weeklies’ staples of celebrities, real-life stories and
now – thanks to Nuts and Zoo – sport, have been luring regular sales
away from Fleet Street with growing success.

Even politics,
traditionally one of the biggest no-nos for any non-newspaper editor,
has been creeping onto the magazine stand. This general election saw
magazine editors getting involved on an unprecedented scale (and that’s
aside from the editors of Motorcycle News and MaxPower, both of whom
stood as candidates). Titles such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Closer
all carried pieces about politics and politicians. Take a Break editor
John Dale was popping up all over the place – from The Daily Politics
show to Sky News and The Guardian – talking about his magazine’s
election guide for women.

For newspaper publishers, “managing the decline” has been part of the lexicon for a decade.

In the United States, Goldman Sachs is reporting the worst quarter for newspaper profits in years.

The
magazine world, by contrast, appears considerably more bullish. Last
week’s PPA conference was infused with the confidence of an industry
enjoying a frenzy of launch activity. Sales continue to look good in
almost every sector.

As Norman Pearlstine, editor-in-chief of
Time Inc, told delegates, Wall Street is showing real signs of nerves
about the future of newspapers, because of their exposure to online
classified advertising. But its analysts remain pretty sanguine about
magazines.

Time for magazine bosses to enjoy a long, relaxed summer holiday, then? Not exactly.

Both
Neil and Pearlstine showed that magazines must be alive to the online
threat that is suddenly gaining fresh momentum. And it’s not other
publishers that could be eating their lunch. If current trends prevail,
Pearlstine noted, Yahoo and Google will have more advertising than the
entire US magazine industry by the end of next year.

Sobering thoughts. As one delegate put it, next year’s PPA conference could be an event with an entirely different complexion.

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