Linda Thomas Brooks

The state of the magazine market: USA

Magazine Networks spoke to Linda Thomas Brooks, President and CEO, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media, the American magazine industry body, about the state of the US magazine market.

What is the state of the magazine market?

In the US, consumer demand for magazine media’s quality content remains exceptionally strong. According to GfK MRI, 91% of all US adults read magazine media.

Consumers continue to invite magazine media into their lives and their homes, as evidenced by its enormous audiences.

According to the MPA – The Association of Magazine Media’s Magazine Media 360° Brand Audience Report, the total gross cross-platform audience for magazine media brands has reached 1.8 billion in 2017.

Magazine brands continue to see growth in Print (including digital replica editions) as well as significant investments paying off in substantially increased audiences for video. In line with trends across the major sites of the online environment, consumers are relying less on Web (desktop/laptop) as they have migrated to consuming content on their mobile web devices.

In the US market, according to MediaFinder 2016, the total number of consumer print magazine titles has remained above 7,000 for the past nine years; totalling 7,216 in 2016.

There have been some high-profile and very successful magazine launches in the past year too.

What percentage of ad spend is going to mags?

According to the latest Kantar Media data, Print magazines are currently third behind cable TV and network TV at 12.2% of all ad spend, which is exactly what print magazine’s ad share was at the end of FY 2016.

When looking at magazine media brands in a platform agnostic way, share of ad spend is greater than reported, since magazine media brands extend into other platforms including TV, web and online video.

According to PwC’s 2017 Media Outlook, the consumer magazine advertising market (print plus digital) in the US has estimated value of $16.6 billion this year and will remain steady through 2021.

What are the key challenges magazines are facing in your market?

The magazine media industry is in the midst of a 10-year review of postal pricing at the Postal Regulatory Commission. The US Postal Service is trying to make a case that postal rates need to be increased dramatically and that would have an enormous negative bottom-line effect on many companies. On behalf of the industry, MPA has called attention to the vast inefficiencies and undisciplined spending incurred by the Postal Service in an effort to ward off such massive increases.

The industry is also challenged with changing the conversation around magazine media from one that is print-based to one that is focused on the multiplatform magazine media ecosystem that is successfully engaging consumers across channels and formats. Consumers—of all ages—still report a strong preference for print magazines, however, our audiences consume a lot of digital content, too. But you don’t have to choose one over the other. Magazine media audiences consume digital content in addition to printed magazines, not in place of them. Publishers need to make sure marketers understand this.

Publishers also need to remind advertisers that magazines deliver large reach, too. Magazines beat TV in reaching adults 12-49. As a matter of fact, the number one magazine in the US has greater reach than the nation’s top television show, and the top 25 magazines have an 88% bigger total audience than the top 25 TV shows.

What is keeping US magazines publishers awake at night?

Magazine brands are competing with low-cost, low-quality digital inventory sold on programmatic. Marketers are already seeing the many downsides to advertising on random websites and it is an opportunity for magazine brands to remind advertisers that magazine media builds brands and sells product in a safe and transparent environment with demonstrable results and more rigour to prove it than anyone else.

At MPA – The Association of Magazine Media, we have substantial data that demonstrates magazines work, both for consumers and for advertisers. With data and research coming from third-party, industry-validated sources, we have comprehensive research from a compilation of 150 neuroscience studies that proves printed content yields higher emotional involvement, comprehension and recall than information presented in a digital format.

To do this on the advertising side, we are sharing research from Millward Brown Digital, an industry-leading research company that analysed more than 100 market mix client studies. That print campaign analysis shows magazines increase both upper-and-lower funnel metrics, from awareness through to purchase intent, for all four studied advertiser categories – consumer packaged goods, auto, entertainment and financial services. In addition, research from Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS), which compiled data from more than 1,400 product studies, showed that magazines had the highest return on advertising spend by a wide margin. For each $1 invested in magazine media, the advertisers averaged a $3.94 return, according to NCS.

All of these studies make clear why and how magazines work and give us, as an industry, the confidence to provide a Print Magazine Sales Guarantee, which guarantees a qualified advertiser a positive ROI, or they get space or money back. There have been more than 80 campaigns in this program and every single one has delivered positive ROI.

What are the key opportunities?

In the past few months, the world has realised that not all media is created equal. All the research points to the exact same conclusion: magazine media provides compelling benefits that aren’t matched by other media channels. Today’s media landscape is littered with an overload of irrelevant content – too much information with too little credibility – combined with the growing noise of unsafe digital environments. The magazine media world has a moment in time to seize the conversation.

We know that magazine media filters out irrelevant content and is trusted by consumers and advertisers alike. We know that consumers believe in magazine media brands and they transfer that belief to the advertising. And we know that advertising in magazines is perceived, understood and recalled differently, better and more often than advertising in other channels.

Now, marketers are realising that context matters and it’s a tremendous opportunity for publishers.

Where do you forecast the sector being in five years time?

As a trade association, we don’t forecast, but we can provide some context. Every new media channel’s growth eventually tapers off and only the most effective with the greatest consumer demand survive.

Magazine media brands are long-standing, recognisable and trusted by consumers and advertisers. They communicate with authority using professionally researched, expertly written, precisely edited, masterfully produced, curated content that is delivered in safe environments, whether on paper or on digital platforms. Individuals are more likely to be happy, confident, excited and hopeful when they read magazines compared to time spent with other media.

That’s not going to change in the coming years.