In another head rattling blow to the publishing industry, Sports Illustrated announced recently that they would go to a monthly publishing schedule. Including preview issues for the big sports, there will be a total of 17 issues in 2020.
This comes not long after the magazine went from being a weekly to every two weeks. It also comes on the heels of Entertainment Weekly going from weekly to monthly, Rolling Stone going from bi-weekly to monthly and ESPN the Magazine just flat out calling it quits.
If you’re one of the few left reading newspapers, I assume you also read magazines (and maybe even books), so you might feel a little affected by this news. If you’re above a certain age, say 40, and are a sports fan, Sports Illustrated probably played a big part in your formative years.
The magazine was well known for its writing and photography and even got accused of cursing players and teams when they would get hurt or lose a big game the Sunday after appearing on the cover.
In its heyday, which covered many decades, Sports Illustrated was moving 3-4 million copies a week. If I remember correctly, their last circulation report had copies sold at around 100,000. That’s a whopper of a decline and would put most places out of business.
But the magazine, which has changed ownership a couple of times in the past few years, soldiers on, mainly on the name it built for itself over the years. I’ve got a subscription that runs through 2024 (!!), so we’ll see if it makes it that long.
Huge declines in readership are escalating throughout the publishing industry. The Knoxville daily paper, at one time, could boast of sales of 100,000 copies daily and 150,000-200,000 on Sundays, depending on if there had been a UT game on Saturday. Their recent circulation statement had them averaging 31,000 copies sold daily.
A publisher out in Salt Lake City recently announced he was going to turn his paper into a non-profit, or try to anyway, and see if it could survive that way. This would allow readers, if they wanted, to write off their subscriptions on their taxes. And might allow advertisers to do the same. I’m not sure exactly how it would work, or even if it can.
And this publisher admitted such an idea wouldn’t fly with the money, money, money corporations that are buying newspapers left and right. Non-profits can’t make more than it takes to operate and the idea of no profit is just unthinkable to some.
But if it does work, it might be the only model that could save some newspapers. Non-profits are supposed to provide a service to the community and, with so many communities not having local news sources anymore, letting everybody know what all those commissioners and aldermen and government employees are doing would indeed be a service to the
But even non-profits have to bring in money to survive and, as long as everybody declares they get all the news they need off Facebook, there’s probably not going to be any plan that will save the publishing industry.
While it will probably take another decade or two to snuff out the last remaining newspaper, I don’t see how the magazine industry will survive even just a few more years. Some will make the transition to the internet. Sports Illustrated has a pretty decent sized internet presence, as does Rolling Stone. They’re both rather desperate to get you to take advantage of their internet sites.
TV Guide, which once boasted weekly sales of 20 million, mainly because they were the only game in town, still moves around 1.5 million copies a week, so they’ll probably be all right for awhile. The others will probably disappear without much fanfare.
For those of us who grew up with them, a world without magazines will seem strange. I used to get a new one in the mail every day. You could count on them like clockwork. The mail man/woman was coming? You were about to get enough reading material to do you for two, three, maybe even five days. You’d get practically giddy with joy.
Now, I get a couple of them every two or three weeks. And if I can’t get to them right away, well, no hurry. It’ll be awhile before another one shows up. And one day, there won’t be any more show up.
So goes the world.