Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Why Jeff Jarvis is wrong about magazines
“Are magazines doomed, too?” That’s the title of a blog post written by Jeff Jarvis, a guy aptly described by D. B. Scott as being “best known for his rather doom-laden posts about the bleak future for newspapers.” Jarvis also does a media column for the Guardian and recently wrote a book called What Would Google Do? He’s one of these new media evangelists that seem to be everywhere these days.

So, does Jarvis think magazines are doomed, too? Pretty much.

Referring to Condé Nast’s folding of Portfolio, Jarvis says the days of the $100 million magazine launch are over. “We’ll see magazines fold and it’s going to be a lot riskier to start new ones to replace them — riskier because, just as on TV and in movies and music, it’s harder to create a blockbuster and consumer magazines depend on the blockbuster economy.”

Jarvis then writes a bunch of stuff about how magazines aren’t doing enough to turn themselves into “community platforms,” before going on to end his post on this dissonant note, “The death of Portfolio doesn’t yet presage the doom of magazines. It marks the doom of magazine launches.”

Like a lot of the people who have already commented on Jarvis's post, I disagree. Portfolio’s death just files it into the long line of badly timed and just plain bad magazine launches.

First of all, I should point out that in Canada, there was never such a thing as a $100 million magazine launch. Most new Canadian publishers have start-up budgets around $5,000-$25,000. Some established publishers might even spend hundreds of thousands on a new launch. And when big Canadian companies like Transcontinental Media start magazines like More, they spend $5 million. No one spends $100 million.

More, as I’m sure you’ve read in Masthead before, has done very well. Some people might even call it a blockbuster success.

Good, finely tuned product + clear target audience + good circulation strategy + attractive, underserved advertising base=successful magazine launch. The formula still works, even in the crazy Internet age. Two more recent examples from our own backyard: Hello! Canada and Best Health. They're doing fine.

Now, I don’t want to come off as one of those print evangelist types; if you want to hear me to talk smack about the future of magazines and newspapers and all that, just call. I’ll give you an earful. But for Jarvis to suggest that print magazine launches are doomed because a poorly targeted, expensive-to-produce magazine like Portfolio failed in a horrible economy? That’s just ludicrous.
- Marco Ursi
About Me
Marco Ursi
Marco is the editor of MastheadOnline. His blog offers a mix of commentary, service and ideas related to Canadian magazines.


Twitter: @MarcoUrsi

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