Magazine publishing has experienced some of the hardest economic times of any sector over the past couple of years. For example, 367 U.S. periodicals closed their doors in 2009 and 64 went to digital-only.
However, despite the economic distress and the explosion of digital media, the pace of decline has slowed considerably. In the first half of 2010, only 87 magazines went out of business and 16 others became digital magazines.
Similarly, magazine direct marketing campaigns are beginning to ramp up again this year, in both the direct mail and email channels. This is a good sign, particularly for direct mailers, as 2009 saw a huge drop in marketing efforts by a struggling magazine industry.
Here are several significant trends highlighted in Direct Marketing IQ's Magazine Publishing Industry Sector Report, which was just released by the Target Marketing Group's research team. The report relies on data provided by the vast collection of direct mail and email in the Who's Mailing What! Archive and the Email Campaign Archive.
1. Consumer magazine mail begins recovery
While consumer magazine mail sank by 37 percent from 2008 to 2009, it's currently projected to only sink by 6 percent in 2010. Among the consumer magazines, from 2008 to 2009, general interest titles fell 37 percent and women's magazines by 26 percent; men's magazines and regional titles did even worse, sinking by a whopping 72 percent for the former and 63 percent for the latter.
Examining the sector further in terms of percentage of each year's total, several trends popped out. Direct mail from consumer magazines—as a percentage of the year's total number of direct mail pieces—went from 68 percent in 2008 to 58 percent in 2009, before recovering to 62 percent during the first six months of 2010. A similar drop was noticeable among the largest consumer category, General/Special Interest, which dropped three percentage points from 2008 to 2009 before gaining one percentage back in the first part of 2010.
2. Business magazine mail playing bigger role
Business magazine mail has barely budged, remaining steady from 2008 to 2009, and through the first six months of 2010—thus dominating more of the magazine publishing mailstream.
Business magazine mail, meanwhile, continues to grow as a percentage of the overall magazine publishing mailstream. At 12 percent in 2008, it rose 16 percent in 2009—and then to 18 percent in the first six months of 2010.
3. Renewal mailings on upswing
The only other area of direct mail "growth" was renewal mailings, which grew in total number and as a percentage. Despite the reduced mail volume of 2009, there were actually 17 percent more renewal mailings in '09 compared to '08. As a result, renewal mailing hogged a larger percentage of total mail, at 22 percent in 2009 vs. only 13 percent in 2008 (it remains above 20 percent in 2010).
Clearly, publishers are investing more in retaining their existing customers—a sensible strategy in difficult times.
4. Email volume on the increase
Because sending email messages is obviously less costly to magazine publishers than direct mail, you will first notice that the usage of email does not follow the same steady decline that magazine direct mail has followed. In fact, it's nearly the reverse, with the usage of email among magazines going up in the first six months of 2010 compared to 2009.
Besides December 2009, the most popular months to email for marketers were June and March of 2010.
5. Holiday time the key time for magazine emails
Of course, because marketers want to capitalize on holiday giftgiving, the month of December 2009 shows the biggest spike in emails sent. After averaging between 2,000 and 2,200 emails per month for most of 2009, emails put out by magazines surged in December to 2,305—an increase of 6.4 percent from the previous month.
Then in January 2010, a significant drop was seen, which suggests either email doesn't perform as well in January or email marketers haven't discovered potential after-holiday sales opportunities in the first month of the year. However, the drop is a full 11 percent less than January of 2009.