In a little under a year, we have said goodbye to three prominent print magazines. Each publication covered a range of topics from the much loved men’s interest magazine, ShortList, to the controversial gossip mag, Now, and then just last month, after three decades, the UK said au revoir to Marie Claire in print.
Each magazine had entirely separate audiences. Yet they all met the same unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected, fate (let’s not forget we have seen this before with the Independent, Glamour and NME.) Is it just that people don’t care for reading glossies or newspapers anymore, or is there something else that’s luring people away from traditional media?
Evolution of media consumption
Throughout the history of humankind, we have told stories, using words and pictures as a means to communicate. Before the internet there was the printing press and before that, there were stories around a campfire and cave paintings. But today, the era of fake news, people are trusting the news and journalists less (down from 51% in 2015, to just 40% in 2019).
It is no secret that print readership is down. The Sun, the most read (paid for) newspaper in the country saw a 9% drop in sales last year, according to ABC, while the free morning Metro paper also lost 3% of readers. This suggests it is more than just money, or the trek to a corner shop, that is fuelling a drop in the number of people reading physical copies of publications.
According to the latest Digital News Report, almost a third of people actively avoid the news, apparently because of boredom, anger and sadness over Brexit. But even with this in mind, it’s unlikely the demise of Now magazine has anything to do with our political situation. Perhaps it’s more about how people are consuming media?
The same report found that two thirds of people are now using a smartphone device to access weekly news, a significant, albeit small, 4% increase from the previous year. This has subsequently led to a rise in popularity of podcasts, especially with the young. Half of those under 35 admitted they had consumed at least one podcast over the month – hardly surprising when the conversation in the office is no longer about which TV series we’re watching, but this week’s episode of the High Low. People still want to hear about men’s interests, or celeb gossip, but are choosing to listen on their mobiles rather than reading them in a magazine.
Recent Ofcom figures show that nearly six million Brits tune into a podcast each week, which is double the number from five years ago. Research company, Ovum, predicts that by 2023, the number of people worldwide listening to at least one podcast a month will grow to £1.8bn. This forecast supports a growing trend and change of tune amongst young people. It fuels the lifestyle of the generation that would prefer to spend £4.20 on a takeaway soymilk flat white, rather than the latest copy of Marie Claire magazine. Podcasts are free and can be listened to on the go - making them the perfect accompaniment to a delicious millennial coffee, thank you very much.
Quest for authenticity
But as a PR, one thing I can’t help but wonder is, what this means for me day to day? Podcasts don’t necessarily report the news as we might traditionally expect, instead they are often forums for debates and opinion rather than factual news reporting.
People don’t necessarily want to stop following the news, but the numbers suggest a change in how the choose to receive it. So, it is interesting then, that in the same year three magazines either ceased publishing or went online only, we have been witness to the launch of two new publications, both of which are focused on long form news and features and leave room for opinion forming and debates.
Tortoise is the slow news, online only, current affairs publication, boasting 36,000 Twitter followers, a 15-person strong newsroom and newspaper veterans at its helm. The news site puts a lot of focus on events, or ‘ThinkIns’, which gives subscribers the chance to engage and hear the varying opinions behind the stories.
The second title to grace us with its presence is The Face, which has come out of hiding, since it ceased printing in 2004. The much-loved pop-culture, style and music magazine from the 80s, announced it would start publishing again just seven days after news broke about Marie Claire’s closure. The Face revealed its four cover stars to its 56,700 Instagram followers as pop music’s biggest stars right now: Dua Lipa, Harry Styles, Rosalia and Tyler, the Creator. However, we will have to wait and see as to whether or not each of those 56,000 will buy a magazine and if 2019’s pop superstars will be enough to make this re-launch a success.
The launch of both publications is undoubtedly a risky move. But when we look at the bigger picture, it could be that how we tell our stories is evolving. People don’t trust traditional news platforms anymore, they want to hear what their favourite podcast host thinks, because arguably listening to their heartfelt, honest opinions could be viewed as more genuine than the writings of a journalist whose voice you fell less connected with.
Ultimately, this all makes me think, if storytelling and the media landscape is changing, it could well be time PRs change the way we do things, too. Luckily for clients of Atlas, it’s something we’ve already started doing…