Will Print Magazine Closures Reduce Freelance Writing Jobs and Rates?

Print Media: Freelance Writing Jobs and Rate

In today's Digital Age tech-savvy readers prefer to get their information in digital form, not paperback or print form. Their reading habits continue to disrupt the traditional publishing model of print media. It's becoming a glaring fact that the number of print magazine titles may eventually decline to a point where publishing companies begin to shut down their print operations and go entirely digital, or simply go out of business.

Thanks (or no thanks) to mobile devices, Internet availability, and immediate access to "packaged" and "pushed" content with transparent transactions, readers are becoming more accustomed to reading their magazines online.

Casting a Shadow of Failure: the Newspaper Industry

Look back at the newspaper industry from 2001 to nowwe can witness the industry's gradual, unstoppable decline as the Internet became more mainstream and newspaper publishers failed at embracing a new publishing model to reach younger readers and attract advertisers.

From 2001 to present day an untold number of newspapers in the U.S. have folded, mainly a result of the proliferation of websites offering immediate "free news" or "cheap news," not to mention the lower cost of publishing and distributing digitally. Of course, we can blame the global recession (2008-2012) on also stimulating bankruptcies and closures.

Earnings of newspapers have continued to tumble, which have plummeted to $34 billion in 2012, roughly half of revenues in 2000. Will magazines follow the slow death of newspapers, perhaps to emerge as digital-only counterparts or disappear into eternity?

Fewer New Magazines in 2013

According to research released this month by MediaFinder.com, publishers have launched fewer magazines than ever in 2013, compared to past years. The good news is that  fewer magazines have foldedbut this also indicates that fewer magazines are left standing to close.

In June (this year) print publishers launched 83 magazines as opposed to 114 in the same period of 2012. Publishers also closed 27 magazines, continuing the pace that saw 44 magazines shut down last year for the same six month period. Approx. 14 magazines appeared as digital-only products in the second half of 2013, compared to 19 digital-only titles during the same period in 2012.

More Closures and Consolidations to Come

Trish Hagood, president of MediaFinder, attributed the closures to "industry consolidation"meaning that some publishers are folding existing magazines together. For example, Meredith Corp. bought Babytalk (est. 1935), Parenting (est. 1987), and Conceive (est. 2004) magazines from Bonnier Corporation. Meredith immediately shut down those publications, merging subscriber lists and content into its existing magazines. UBM shut down InformationWeek (est. 1979) and CRN (est. 1982), then moved Game Developer magazine (est. 1994) to digital only. InformationWeek and CRN are digital only now, too.

Other magazines that have ceased, folded into another title, or have turned into digital-only products in recent months include: Caribbean Travel & Life magazine (est. 1986), MuscleMag (Robert Kennedy Publishing, est. 1974), Newsweek (est. 1933), Spin magazine (est. 1985), American Artist magazine (est. 1937), Sporting News (est. 1886), Whole Living magazine (est. 2004), Healthy Cooking magazine (est. 2008), Nintendo Power magazine (est. 1988), PlayStation: The Official Magazine (est. 1997), Maryland Life magazine (est. 2005), PhotoMedia magazine (est. 1988), Yoga International magazine (est. 1990), and now PCWorld magazine (est. 1983), and More! magazine (Bauer Media, est. 1998). See an updated list of dead magazine markets at my blog.

How Might Freelance Writers Be Affected?

Consolidations and closures could make selling articles to editors more competitive and give publishers less incentive to pay writers what they're worth. Right now editors usually buy two types of publication rights from freelance writers for the same article: First Serial Rights (for print)  and First Electronic Rights (for digital). Publishers pay a competitive rate to publish the article in the magazine, and also pay a smaller fee to include it online. Sometimes publishers may also purchase "reprint rights" to include the same article in sister publications with similar content, or pay "foreign rights" to include it in international print editions. If publishers decide to consolidate their portfolios of magazines, ditch their print editions, and go entirely digital, writers may lose out on selling a variety of serial rights to their articles, not to mention having less magazines to pitch articles to.

Special Interest Magazines Are Thriving

Some segments of the magazine industry are holding their own, even expanding for now. For example, industry experts reported that luxury, lifestyle, food, and regional magazines are experiencing steady-to-strong growth. Even as Meredith consolidates its portfolio of parenting magazines, the company is expanding into titles like Allrecipes.com (which will soon become a print magazine). Other publishers include: ModernLuxury.com launching Beach magazine, The Daily FRONT ROW launching The Daily Summer magazine, and Manhattan Media launching Avenue on the Beach magazine.

These magazines are thriving because they target specific interests and readerships, and advertisers are willing to pay a few thousand dollars for a single ad to put their products or services in front of these readers.

That trend is good news for savvy freelancers. If you target your efforts toward the trending segments, produce quality work around hot topics like food, luxury, shopping, and regional-interest pieces, you can improve your chances of selling your work to such magazines.

For news on magazine closures or launches, visit my Tumblr Blog, WritingCareer.com

I welcome your comments, corrections, or suggestions. Please use the Comments form below.

Brian Scott

Related articles: