Wednesday, November 19

Will Shelter Magazines Weather the Storm?


A recent article in The New York Observer (No Shelter in a Storm! As Economy Quakes, Home Mags Teeter) started me thinking about a subject that has been on my mind for quite some time. Are magazines becoming obsolete? With the increasing number of blogs, online magazines and the recent economic downturn we seem to be witnessing the irreversible and inevitable death of many magazines.

Personally I DO NOT want to see my favorite shelter magazines fall by the wayside! So my question is this: is it possible to have both a vibrant blogosphere and our beloved magazines? Can the magazine industry make financial ends meet? What more can be done in order for magazines to survive?

For the past several months I have been feverishly researching blogging trends. Primarily I have looked at how magazines, advertisers and bloggers can work together to promote a stronger readership while building a community of individuals who share a similar interest. Likewise, I have argued that many of the shelter magazines can, and should, create mutually beneficial relationships within the blogging world.

I do not see this as an 'us' versus 'them' issue. Several magazines have taken steps in this direction, but many have skirted the issue or failed to clearly see the potential. It's not enough for a magazine to have merely a 'web' presence. In my opinion, this is not a smart move, as it seems that the balance of power and influence is tipping, noticeably, to the Web.

Why is the balance tipping? First and foremost, it is a very personal means of interacting, communicating and receiving feedback. Most importantly blogs allow for active, not passive, readership. Another huge bonus is that blog content is instantaneous and, quite frankly, it is cheap! Not just in terms of cost to produce, but advertising as well. This is NOT an argument to do away with magazines. For me, nothing can replace my glossy magazines. I am merely stating a few well-known facts.

Do I believe that blogs have a greater advantage over magazines? Not necessarily. Nor do I believe the sky is falling on all magazines. The smart ones will find a way to reach out and weather the storm. I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue and if there are any interested parties, I am more than happy to share my thoughts and research.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite indulgences is to get the children to bed, pour a glass of wine and devour my "business journals". I love my magazines and I can't imagine that they will "go away". My regular reads are Southern Accents, Veranda, and Domino. If I feel like splurging I will also get British Home and Garden or Elle Decor. I feel people view these as necessary luxuries. We may be cutting back on other spluges, but these are affordable escapes. xoxo stasie

ALL THE BEST said...

Stasie I completely agree with you! It's one of the reasons I was upset by facts of The NY Observer article...especially the mention of domino!

Singerie Design said...

I really miss house and garden, and the uk version isn't as good. I would have paid over a hundred bucks to keep a subscription. Am I crazy? Back in the 1960's you could buy binders from the magazines to bind your magazines into books. I still have a bunch of bound Connoisseur magazines from the 1960's of my grandparents. Still in great shape, maybe this would help take these disposable magazines and turn them into coffee table/art books.

ALL THE BEST said...

I miss House and Garden too!! How wonderful to have magazines that belonged to your grandparents!

Anonymous said...

I miss House & Garden so much. It was so polished and well done. I also enjoy the decorating blogs. Hopefully both will survive and we can have the best of both worlds. I always read House Beautiful, Southern Accents, Veranda,and Domino. Sometimes Elle Decor as well. I love the blogs but cherish my hard copies.
Marion

Easy and Elegant Life said...

That's a tough question to answer. I believe that the magazines will survive (as will books, despite the Kindle and its ilk; there's no real substitute for holding glossy photos or turning a real page.) But, I think that magazines are going to have to develop web specific content. Give us the behind-the-scenes, how-to's, interviews in video format and new photos that expand on the topics and they've got a hit.

H&G was the first shelter magazine that I really loved. I still haven't found a replacement that does the job as well. With the demise of "Men's Vogue", there is another hole to fill. I am no longer the GQ demographic, if the style features are any indication.

ALL THE BEST said...

Mr E&E,
I so agree! For me nothing beats having a glossy magazine in hand or next to the bed, and yet two more this week (Cottage Living and O Home) close their doors. There are also reports that domino is suffering.

Yes, magazines are going to have to develop web specific content among other things.

It's funny that so many of us miss H&G!!

vicki archer said...

I believe that magazines will survive because interior junkies, like all of us, will continue to demand them. Scanning, commenting and home snaps on blogs are one thing, and a fabulous thing at that, but blogging can never replace the feel of a magazine in the hands. Magazines are about so much more than flicking through images - they are a way to relax, a way to be stimulated and a way to keep up to date. Magazines are a more passive activity than blogging, therefore relaxing, as they require no comment. They can be consumed in our own time - however we like. In the bath, in the bed, on the floor a magazine is a treat any time. There has to be room in our world for blogging and magazines - we all need a little time away from the web.

ALL THE BEST said...

Vicki I am right there with you! I LOVE my magazines! But I wonder if interior junkies alone are enough to keep them mags in business? It's all about readership and most importantly revenue!

Even before the economy imploded, the raw numbers were bleak: Ad pages in Better Homes and Gardens have fallen 17 percent this year, according to Media Industry Newsletter; Country Home is down 22 percent; Dwell is down 11 percent; Country Living 10 percent.

One Condé Nast inside says that domino is having a horrible time at the moment. I REALLY hope this is not the case!

vicki archer said...

Those figures are bleak and with the economy as it is they will no doubt drop even further. If Domino is suffering then I pity the rest.
I shall do my best and keep all my subscriptions - I will find savings elsewhere and let us hope that others will think like us.

ALL THE BEST said...

I agree 100 percent! Excellent point Vicki!! I we want them then we MUST support them with our money!

smallrooms said...

Here in Dallas—and yes, Texas—there's a shelter rag called DHome. It's part of the DMagazine Empire. They have blogs for all their pubs. Unfortunately, the blog for DHome has nothing that I can sink my teeth into. It mainly posts shopping events, store openings, home tours, etc. It's turned into a glorified PR tool for vendors and such.

http://blog.dhomeandgarden.com/

So the point I'm trying to make is—DHome blog posts are created by the editors and writers, who must also produce a magazine. And have precious little time to give to the blog. Friday, the DMagazine empire laid off 19% of their work force, and the rest had to take a pay cut. Along with doing away with some of their less profitable pubs.

I'm thinking that in order for the blog to become more juicy and fun, they should invite outsiders to regularly contribute and not rely on their overworked staff. But just in case that doesn't happen, I'll be filling in the "Dallas" void with my website and blog, called smallroom.com. But don't go lookin' for it—it ain't up yet. I'm building it from scratch on nights and weekends with Adobe's Dreamweaver. My day job is graphic design, but my passion is older homes—something that's not appreciated in this town. AAARRRGGGHHH!

By the way, I check your blog every day. Love it!

ALL THE BEST said...

Smallrooms,
You are right in saying that staff have precious little time to give to a (good) blog or a strong web presence. And I fully agree that magazines should invite outsiders to regularly contribute. I think most bloggers would be happy to contribute.

Also, having been a professional fundraiser for 10+ years, I know that you always have to give your donors MORE and make the feel SPECIAL, especially in hard times. Subscribers are no different; magazines are going to have to think outside of the box.

Charlie said...

This is a great subject. My sister is the Web Editor of a magazine and we discuss this a lot. I think the way of the future is that there will be more web-magazines where a small membership fee is charged to log on, download articles/photos etc. Its so much cheaper-no office space to pay for, no printing costs etc.
Its grim as I have stacks of shelter magazines all over my house and I don't get a twitch in my eye from staring at the pages, the way I do when I spend too much time staring at a screen.

Nan said...

The solution to this quandry is for magazines to be available both in print and via the internet. Either choice can be through single purchase or subscription. This would allow for advertisers to continue to be the major source of revenue for the magazine publishing industry. Those of us who consider our magazines part of our library, not recycable trash, would be happy with our tactile version while those who are satisfied with an on-line version could opt for this.

Presently, Amazon offers a limited number of magazines for on-line purchase.

Cote de Texas said...

Wonderful, thought provocking post. I am one that loves digital magazines. I've spent a small fortune on them lately. But still = I would have to have S.A. and Veranda in my hands. But that said, I do think digital is the wave of the future.

Gosh, Cottage Living too? That really bothers me!!! so many great ones. But you know - look back on an early issue of Cottage Living - it was so great, and lately, not nearly so. Country Home is just awful now and Country Living is the absolute worst. Those should both be wonderful. Lots to think about!

Mrs. Blandings said...

Ronda - I think it will be interesting to see how this will all play out. I, too, miss H&G and have the last year and a half on my shelf as I cannot seem to part with it. And, I, too, need to hold magazines in my hand. Images on a screen are not the same and I am one of the ones putting them there so I am clearly a blog fan. I do think it's a partnership and an evolution. It's tricky for a magazine to deconstruct a look as they are building their brand as well. I am curious to see if magazines can form the same relationships with readers that bloggers can. Adding a blogger to a website doesn't seem to get me there. I do hate that part of the evolution is the demise of the print magazine. I guess we will wait to see what comes next.

Suzy said...

Great post Ronda. I agree, I think there is definitely room for both. While I love blogging, and reading other blogs I would not survive without magazines in the flesh. I love magazines that have their content online, but I still love having a stack of them on my bedside on a Saturday morning with a cuppa. Nothing could ever replace that.

Interesting point about magazines and bloggers having some sort of relationship...I guess everyone likes to have their information delivered in a different way, and have differing opinions on how personal or interactive it is. I guess only time will tell.

Porchlight Interiors said...

While I enjoy the interaction of blogging, it has definately not replaced my magazine obsession. There is nothing like bringing your favourity mag home, making a cup of tea and curling up on the couch for some time out! Tracey x

Kay said...

Is it the Internet that is affecting the magazine market, or the downturn? Or overpopulation of the marketplace? This has happened in the past - some wonderful mags died in the 20th century, long before the Internet appeared. As always, I reckon the primary causes will be good old economics - mags often operate on very tight margins and are heavily dependant on advertisers. Readers are a fickle lot, and there is a lot of copy-catting going on. I think there will be a pretty major shakeout. It will be the big advertisers who will drive this for the next couple of years, not the readers. Advertising budgets will be being reexamined; and I wouldn't mind betting that the (largely free to end user) Internet will benefit hugely from the downturn (with many people reluctant or less inclined to buy a sheaf of mags), ergo ad execs seeing the Net as the most effective vehicle for their products? I doubt if the biggies will be affected but I think this has been some time coming.

Karen said...

I, too, cannot imagine not having our favorite glossy pages to hold in my hands. I think the one thing that magazines offer, at least to me, is the fact that I can hold them in my hand as well as make them a part of my everyday horizon. Am I the only one who actually finds a great layout/article and leaves the pages opened to that very spot and oh, so casually, places it on the coffee table right next to the favorite flowers or whatchamacallit that is the exact same color family JUST for the effect on the room? And I also love to take out small portions of a photo and paint from it. It is for the tangible solid form that we love our magazines. They are doors into the land of make believe and creativity.
I do think that blogs are the natural extension of the magazine page because they bring life to the subject. Magazines are missing a big opportunity here - let the photos and articles start the conversation with us and let the blog open it up. Let us ask each other the questions via the blog, add our comments, observations, and queries that are prompted by the original premise in the articles. Even a preview of the next edition on the blog might engender enough interest for more of us to go out and buy the real deal.
Great question! And I am going to go hug all my old issues of the favorites and sling a few back onto the kitchen counter as I pile those great oranges and greens onto the same surface just for effect!!

Karena said...

Here in KC there are lots of shelter & lifestyle magazines. Then there are my favorite national publications. I do get so excited when I pick one up in my hands and can read it. Books, I have never gotten into audio because I want to see the words. I am very visual. The blogging world adds so much personalization and character for those of us involved!

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

After hearing that "O at Home" and "Cottage Living" were going the way of H&G this month, I've been pondering the same issues you mentioned. Things sure don't look good for shelter magazines right now! Great post. I'm Stumbling it. :-)

Anonymous said...

I've been reading all my favorite blogs today and no ones commented on the fact that COTTAGE LIVING IS CLOSING!! It's one of my all time favorites and it's shutting it's doors as of it's last issue and having to lay off 600 pp. I'm surprised no one else is mourning my loss today. I found out yesterday!

Anonymous said...

Here's the news story about Cottage Living closing it's doors.
http://www.nypost.com/seven/11182008/business/time_inc__closing_cottage_living_magazin_139387.htm

Anonymous said...

The larger problem with magazines is that they have not been able to incorporate online into their "world". If magazines recognized that they are able to build on their brand by providing unique, online content (bloggers, etc.)they wouldn't see their balance sheet trembling quite as badly as it is. http://www.thebigmoney.com/articles/impressions/2008/11/13/glossed-over?page=full

halcyon said...

No, I don't think blogs are a threat to magazines. I read all the blogs daily, but most of us who blog or read blogs, are big readers who love to grab a cup of tea or joe and hole up with a book. I myself read magazines in bed lying on my stomach. Love to read the shelter mags! I believe it's just the economy, mostly. Little luxuries are the first things to go when the belt tightens financially. I've tried to read some of the mags online, and it's not the same. The blogs are a different animal to me. Also we will never have the capital and equipment to compete with a magazine. And with the exception of your blog and some other great ones, the entreé. Good Question!

Patricia Gray said...

I think that there is a place for magazines and Blogs to cohabit side by side and I think that they can compliment one another. Magazines are the ones to pay to photograph and bring to us the projects and pictures that we like to show and comment on in our Blogs. Blogs are a good format to promote magazines and products. I think that Blogs are becoming an increasingly sought after format for advertisers to inform the public about themselves. For instance everyday I get many requests from suppliers that want me to promote their products on my Blog. It is free and a fast way to get the word out. I would never give up my favourite magazines, but I am more selective and subscribe to only a few now as compared to what I used to before the advent of Blogging. Architectural Digest is one magazine that seems to be doing a good job of interacting with their readers with the advent of their special forums. I think that the marketplace will dictate, and it is up to magazines and Blogs to listen to that voice and figure out how to deliver what consumers want, which is no easy task.
Good thought provoking post Rhonda.

Things That Inspire said...

I too love my shelter magazines, but I love the ones that create the 'ultimate' home, the dream home. These are inspirational to me, versus the shelter magazines that have recommendations for creating looks on a budget.

I remember when People magazine would only allow online access to subscribers. I am not sure how this worked, but perhaps the shelter magazines should have a special online section just for subscribers (you could be verified as a subscriber with a code on your magazine label). This would give incentive to both subscribe, and go online.

I also like what Traditional Home has done; they do not show the current issue online, instead they show the past issue. Very smart given the blogging world (it prevents people from using pictures from current issues and posting them online).

suzanne cabrera said...

Oh...I hope they never go away....and don't think they will. As much as I love blogs, there is something about the tangible nature of a good magazine that can never be trumped.