Your Magazine’s Birthday is Irrelevant

Magazines are stretching to add page traction and ad dollars. One of the time-honored techniques include birthday celebrations, usually accompanied by graphic redesigns.

The reality, however, is that readers don’t give a crap about the publisher’s baby. Advertisers more so, but admitted kudos to the ad reps for pushing the sales opportunity. As for redesigns, hey, guilty as charged as I did several while publishing Mobilia. The urge to “improve” is irresistible, but unless there’s real value tied to the milestone (i.e. dollars), the trumpet call will fall on deaf ears. All for the return? A $30K design invoice and one-shot advertisers.

Where special events can boost cash, well heck, I’m all for it. Trouble is, many of these initiatives are simply window dressing when much more is needed to penetrate and capture an increasingly savvy audience.

Now, why a blog rant over an admittedly trivial pursuit? Glad you asked. I bring up the B-day bash to highlight the self-absorbed nature of publishing. (And the fact that today I hit a birth date age that matches to my year date of birth. Yes, it begins with a Five.)

Seriously, founders treat their pubs as children having nurtured them through thick and thin, then back to thick. I applaud this dedication and loyalty, but it demonstrates a troubling pattern of resisting the dramatic changes necessary to survive. Human nature almost requires us to repeat bad patterns knowing the error of our ways yet there’s comfort in the known… so the pattern repeats. Like buying more British cars when we know better.

My advice to publishers contemplating a redesign, and the abundance of house ads touting another year of happiness (at the expense of page yield), take stock of where you are in the marketplace to determine if this investment will really make a difference. It could wind up more of a distraction than benefit. Unless your money tree is in a perpetual state of bloom, continued investments in print may come at the expense of investing in new and more promising initiatives. Most publishers can’t do both.

Readers of Car Pub Insider are all too familiar with my soapbox delivery about online supplanting print, so no dead horse beating in this post. Just a happy birthday to all those veteran pubs out there marking time. The world awaits you.

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