Private Frazer’s Doomed Magazines

January 29, 2009

Lies, damn lies and growth forecasts

Filed under: customer publishing,figures,Recession — privatefraser @ 2:23 pm
Tags: ,

You’ve got to feel sorry for trade bodies such as the PPA and APA. They’ve got to keep maintaining that the publishing model is just about as perfect as it can be and that everyone is doing wonderfully well – continuing to try to justify their existence while the world collapses around their members’ ears. One of the ways they do this is to commission ludicrous research that proves that everything is great and will get even greater (so keep on coughing up the membership fees).

The latest example of this is the APA’s wonderful statement that Customer publishing set to top £1bn despite downturn.

To begin with, lets take this risible claim at face value and just look at the figures they’ve used to come to this conclusion.

The customer publishing industry was worth £904m in 2007 and is set to grow to just over £1bn by 2013. The £904m figure it cites comprises £473 million in turnover for publishing agencies, additional costs of £13 million and mailing costs of £418 million.

So right away we have over 45% of this ‘value’ being the cost of postage. The industry could therefore hit £1bn if the Royal Mail hikes its prices by 20% in the next four years.

Second, the figure is based on the turnover of the agencies, not the value of the magazines that they produce. So this total includes among other things, catalogues, direct mail, consultancy and (crucially) electronic media (more on this later). The total value of the magazines side of things is hinted at later:

bolstering the industry is its reduced reliance on the advertising-funded model… in 2004 39 per cent of customer publishing turnover was derived from advertising, but this has now fallen to 19%, equating to just £49 million.

This gives us a figure of around £250m – so we’re now at less than 30% of the main £904m headline figure.

And print is being caned:

Whilst print remains the main format for customer publishers accounting for 75% of the total (including magazines, catalogues and direct mail), this figure has fallen significantly since the last study when it made up 90% of the total. [my emphasis]

And the biggest markets for customer publishers?

Retail and distribution accounts for the largest segment … with 32 per cent of printed titles

Oh dear. We’d better not plan on too much growth here then.

Private Frazer’s analysis, based on nothing but a curmudgeonly aspect on the world, is that we will continue to see clients abandoning their vanity publications. Those oh-so-lovingly designed pages with their expensive photography on wonderful art papers – they seem such a good idea when the marketing budget is expanding. But now? More websites definitely, more e-magazines probably, but more print? Whole swathes of Scandinavian forest will remain unfelled and reservoirs of ink will remain untouched. The only upside to this is that the Royal Mail will be able to chisel less from the business.

I leave you with a paragraph fromJulia Hutchinson, the COO of APA. A packet of shortbread to anyone who can translate this into English.

[The] robust future [of customer publishing] is due to the consistent demonstration of ownership of editorialisation of brand by customer publishers and the growth of digital in the medium is testament to the channel holistic nature of customer publishing.

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