Magazine publishing trends for 2019


Which exciting new territories will magazines move into in 2019? And what kind of competition from outside the industry will established publishers have to deal with?

First, two aspects of magazine publishing that will take it (further) into areas not traditionally occupied by the industry.


New horizons for magazine content

The death of print has been predicted since the end of the last century. Instead, successful magazines have reinvented themselves as brands that serve their audience via a range of channels, of which print is but one.

For many, it started off by making the same content available in print, online and later on mobile, but in 2019 the trend towards using multichannel publishing to differentiate content to allow each channel to play to its strengths will continue.

A bridal magazine, for instance, would use its print version for indulgent double-page spreads with sumptuous photos of wedding dresses and venues. Its website would focus on content such as online wedding gift registries and how-to videos about makeup on the Big Day. The mobile app would allow wedding guests who snapped pictures on their phones to upload them directly to the wedding couple’s online photo album on the magazine’s social pages.

Troy Young, president of Hearst Magazines, calls this content with a purpose: “Print is heavily edited and curated and it’s like a celebration or an event that happens once a month. And there’s something really wonderful about that. And it’s a lean-back experience that I think gives a consumer a break from the intensity of the digital world. And I think increasingly that people are going to look for that...I think digital performs a different role in that it’s about being relevant in the moment and responding to the news cycle, as well as reinforcing a very clear point of view that the brand has. There is a very complementary role that they play to each other.”

Leslie Yazel, editor-in-chief of the US women’s magazine Real Simple, says women come to the title on different platforms for different reasons. “They come to us in print and that’s a break and relaxing; they come to us in digital and they’re usually taking action, they’re looking for something, whether it’s a recipe or a shortcut.”

The next big content frontier for magazine titles? How about virtual reality? National Geographic is launching three virtual reality projects this year. The first one takes audiences into the wild of Botswana's Okavango Delta.


Where will the money come from?

Advertising revenue will continue to leak towards platforms such as Google and Facebook. To counter this, magazine publishers will seek to tap into new revenue streams.

Condé Nast has decided to decrease its reliance on advertising in 2019 from 70% to 50% of total revenue. They will add 150 new roles in the next two years that will focus on five new areas of revenue, including video, creative services, consumer revenue, data licensing and events.

Yazel says another reason her readers come to Real Simple’s digital version is that they could be looking to buy something. "[P]art of what’s been fun about becoming part of the Meredith Corporation [who recently bought the title] is that with their Shop Nation acquisition, practically overnight they opened the Real Simple Shop online.”

Many magazines have already branched out into events to expose new people to their brand and to foster more loyalty among the existing audience. This also increases the number of touchpoints that magazines have with their readers, which enables them to know the audience even better.

This now opens up a new opportunity on a B2B level: turning audience data into money.

Some publishers use their audience knowledge to make their offering more attractive to advertisers, but others such as Pride Media will be offering market research as a standalone service this year, tapping into a different budget of their clients.

In a survey of 300 senior decision-makers at US digital media and marketing companies by Lotame, a data management platform, one-third of respondents reported that they’re selling their audience data. “Publishers who choose to sell their data are often driven by one thing: increasing revenues,” says Jason Downie, chief strategy officer at Lotame.

There’s a third trend, however, that will go the opposite direction, away from diversification and the conquering of new territories.




The newbies go niche

“Niche publishers have not merely survived the past decade - many of them are thriving. They’ve managed this feat by staying relentlessly focused on one specific category and by thoroughly understanding the types of content and information that their audiences want, need – and in some cases, what readers don’t yet know they need,” says CredSpark, an audience insight specialist.

How niche can you go? A round-up of recently launched magazines across the globe includes titles covering topics like improving the quality of life for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers and their loved ones; the stories and cultural experiences involving people who love plantains; and exploring contemporary tea culture.

Expect media businesses from outside the world of magazine publishing to join in this trend. Guess who recently launched a high-end quarterly print magazine in the UK and Northern Europe? None other than Facebook. It’s titled Grow, and focuses on thought leadership “that shines a light on people, companies and trends challenging the status quo”. Lonely Planet, a publisher of low-budget travel guidebooks, has been getting into magazine publishing as well, and the northern hemisphere’s spring of 2019 will see the launch of the Italian edition of Lonely Planet Magazine.

Small, independent magazine publishers were the first to suffer from the internet revolution, but now they’re back. Paul Gorman, co-curator of a UK exhibition on “indie” magazines, talks about the “new resurgence of independent magazines”. The exhibition features magazines like Sabat, a publication for modern witches; Third, a style bible with an editorial slant on the underrepresented; and Burnt Roti, a lifestyle magazine for South Asian women.

We can also expect to see highly niched single-edition magazines being produced as content publishing solutions become ever more flexible and easier to use. The ultimate in exploiting a very narrow niche must be the publication in Germany of a 92-page once-off lifestyle magazine themed around Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday!



Google and Facebook continue to eat away at advertising revenue. However, innovative magazine publishers are looking at a variety of ways to monetize their businesses and earn revenue beyond the traditional advertising model. Different business models are one approach. But in a competitive landscape, equally important is building the right technology stack to keep your organization lean and efficient. Publishers such as Hearst, Forbes Media, and Axel Springer use WoodWing's solutions to optimize their publishing workflows.

For more information or to discuss how asset management and digital production workflow can benefit your publishing business, get in touch.

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Nick Bezuidenhout, Specialist Copywriter – Guest blogger

Nick specializes in writing content for the web. He draws on more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor-in-chief and web project manager on B2B and consumer titles in Britain, China, Kenya and South Africa. Read his blog about writing for the web here.