We live in an ever changing, rapidly evolving world. Because of this, our print media sources: Books, Magazines, and Newspapers have been forced to take on new challenges and issues that face their business. The introduction of the Internet gave rise to the eBook along with online subscriptions to magazines and newspapers becoming an option for consumers. Because online readership is increasing more and more, companies are forced to consolidate or make drastic changes to how they run their business. Print media is vital to America and a crucial form of entertainment, but life in the print world is not always the easiest.
Business Issues Facing Books
The book industry is one that has been around for ages, yet there still seems to be something special about opening a new book for the first time; the smell of the freshly pressed pages, the crisp sheets gliding as the pages slide between your fingertips, all remain constant despite the troubles the industry is facing. Publishers are encountering many issues and changes with the convergences of media types, and evolving needs of consumers. The major business issues that are changing the industry are, consolidations, the move to eBooks, and on-demand printing abilities.
One major problem is that large press and publishing companies are merging, thus putting the power in the hands of few, forcing smaller companies to print more specialized topics in order to compete. Despite this, smaller companies still struggle, leaving larger corporations to dominate the business. In result, further reducing the diversity of companies in the industry (Biagi, 41). This also effects the pricing of books for consumers (Biagi, 40). With less competition, prices inflate and while the number of book sales has decreased substantially, the monetary total has stayed relatively close in comparison to the past (Compaine, 27).
Another issue facing the book industry is the rise of eBooks. Not only does moving to a digital platform transform the publishing industry, it also affects cost and consumption of books. Publishing a book in a digital format rather than a printed one permits publishers to cut production cost dramatically, thus allowing them to offer lower prices to consumers (Michaels, 5). With this digital model, books have less limitations, readers can hold hundreds of books on a small, handheld device, and access them from anywhere, at any time (Biagi, 42).
Printing on-demand also referred to as POD, like eBooks has transformed sales in the book industry (Pavlik and McIntosh, 76). Printing on-demand allows publishers to print books in smaller quantities, and allows for the printing of additional copies when their inventory gets low. This creates an opportunity for publishers to save money, and adjust their budgets, leaving room for more spending in other areas (Michaels, 6). All of these factors are changing the book industry for better or worse.
Business Issues Facing Magazines
The word “magazine” was first coined in 1731 by Edward Cave, an English writer who set out to make a general publication for the population to enjoy. With the magazine gaining popularity quickly it was not until the industrial revolution and the turn of the century that the magazine truly took off. Despite gaining much of its momentum during the 20th century, the magazine industry is tasked with having to overcome roadblock after roadblock as the world becomes more technological every day.
The first major business issue hindering the magazine industry is a lack of advertisements. With television and Internet advertising becoming more and more ubiquitous, the magazine industry is having trouble finding advertisements for their publications. Without these paid advertisements companies are losing money and as a result it is better for the company to reduce employee’s pay rather than turn to layoffs (McPheters, 1). This way, the company saves money on severance packages and saves on hiring and training personnel when the industry picks back up (McPheters, 1).
Another issue facing the industry is the way magazine companies make a profit. Price reductions in the industry are restricted to the subscription process. In the magazine market, sales are accounted for on a monthly basis and each month correlates to a different issue. This means, there is no individual purchase increase from month to month (Mercedes, 139).
Magazine companies are being forced to change their production processes as our world becomes more environmentally friendly. Many of the production practices and the material used for the actual magazines are not environmentally friendly and as a result much of the magazine industry is seeing a drawback from their once loyal customers (Pavlik and McIntosh, 99).
The magazine industry is transforming itself into the digital age. One way the magazine industry is making this transformation is by using distributers like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Barnes & Nobles to sell their publications, whether in stores or digitally. Amazon has become as dominant in the online sales world as Dunkin’ Donuts has in Boston so for a magazine company to be distributed by Amazon would be a godsend.
Business Issues Facing Newspapers
The Newspaper has been around in America since 1690 when the first publication was printed in Boston. Since then, newspapers have performed an intricate part of our daily lives. Until the invention of the radio and television the only outlet through which people could receive the news was, in fact, from a newspaper. From the local newspaper boy to picking up the New York Times at your local gas station on your way to work, the newspaper industry is alive in America, but is it breathing?
Newspapers are, what they sound like, papers. This does not bode well with the tumultuous world of media that we find ourselves in today. Because they are made out of paper the biggest issue facing the newspaper industry (magazines and books alike) is digitalization. When the friendly neighborhood newspaper boy no longer comes to your door every morning because his paper is no longer printing you can thank the Washington Post for becoming digitalized.
A second issue is the monopolization of the newspaper industry, partially due to the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970, which “was intended to preserve diverse editorial opinion in communities where only two competing, or independently owned, daily newspapers exist,” (Pavlik and McIntosh, 86). Under this act, newspapers can remain independently owned but work under a joint operating arrangement or a JOA; this essentially sets up the industry to become monopolized. By newspapers working in JOA’s it allows the possibility for one, more dominant company to over power and monopolize the other (Pavlik and McIntosh, 86).
Due to advances in technology, newspaper companies are being forced to make many changes to the way they operate. For instance, some companies have turned to being a Bi-weekly newspaper rather than an everyday print. By printing less often the company is working to save money. Other companies, such as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer have moved to being solely digital publications (Pavlik and McIntosh, 87).
With a rapidly changing world, American print media is facing a crossroad they may not be prepared for. Everyday, new technological advances are being made, advances that could potentially make or break book, magazine, and newspaper commerce. There is no way to know what the future holds for print media but if they look towards their past and present, American print media can be more properly prepared for their future.
Biagi, Shirley. “Books: Rearranging the Page.” Media/Impact: an Introduction to Mass Media, 10th ed., Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013, pp. 40–42.
Compaine, Benjamin M. “Size and Growth Trends of the Book Publishing Industry.” The Book Industry in Transition: an Economic Study of Book Distribution and Marketing, Knowledge Industry Publications, 1978, pp. 22–34.
McPheters, Rebecca. “Argues that Downsizing is Bad Business.” MIN Media Industry Newsletter, 08 Nov. 2008.
Esteban-Bravo, Mercedes, et al. “Magazine Sales Promotion.” Journal of Advertising, vol. 38, no. 1, Spring2009, pp. 137-146.
Michaels, Ken. “The Evolving Challenges and Opportunities in Global Publishing.” Publishing Research Quarterly, 7 Feb. 2015, pp. 1–8. Communication and Mass Media Complete [EBSCO], doi:10.1007/s12109-014-9392-1.
Pavlik, John V., and Shawn McIntosh. “Chapter 3: Print Media: Books, Newspapers, and Magazines.” Converging Media: a New Introduction to Mass Communication, Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 69–102
Tree, D. Eadward. “What to Expect from Amazon’s Newsstand Business.” Publishing Executive, NAPCO Media, 15 May 2017, www.pubexec.com/post/magazines-amazon-expect-amazons-newsstand-subscription-business/.