Instead, a combination of forces led by the broad economic slump is delivering as challenging a year as ever for traditional publishers. You can see it when you look at macro measures such as the number of ad pages sold into print magazines for their issues through June, which came in 5.5% lower than in the first half of 2007, according to the Media Industry Newsletter.
And you can see it when you visit individual fronts in the battle, such as the young men's video site Heavy -- which is now playing a bawdy music video it created to promote the JVC El Kameleon car stereo. JVC has pulled out of titles such as Playboy and Forbes this year to concentrate on digital marketing, outdoor advertising and events such as the Crue Fest 2008 tour.
"FHM has gone away, and Stuff magazine has gone away," said Chad Vogelsong, general manager-marketing at JVC Mobile Entertainment. "Every year, those magazines that our core reads are shrinking. Magazines are not the way young males are being entertained anymore. ... So I decided to get away from those more-traditional media angles and focus more on viral through partners like Heavy."
Still in print
Starting next month, Heavy will add branded entertainment on behalf of Southern Comfort, which chose not to repeat its recent buys in titles such as Rolling Stone and Maxim.
Nobody is leaving print entirely; Spin has managed to retain both JVC and SoCo as advertisers, and both brands are still using niche magazines, too.
Nor are magazine publishers passively taking the losses. Magazines including Forbes, Playboy, Maxim and Rolling Stone have built websites that go well beyond their print editions, offering exclusive video, mobile updates, blogs, widgets and special ad units. Magazine companies are investing in ad networks such as Jumpstart Automotive Media, acquired by Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. in April 2007, and partnerships such as the deal between Hearst Magazines and YouTube to build magazine-branded video channels.
Magazine sites attracted 70.7 million unique monthly visitors during the first quarter of the year, up 11.9% from the first quarter of 2007, according to a Magazine Publishers of America report last Tuesday. That's a much faster rate of growth than the internet as a whole enjoyed in the same period.
But advertisers' priorities, methods and media partners are clearly continuing to change.
"It was time for us to make a bigger bet in the digital arena," said Campbell Brown, VP-director, Southern Comfort Americas.
That's partly because Mr. Brown wanted to expand the impact of the growing SoCo Music Experience, a festival that kicked off its fourth year May 17 in Atlanta. Heavy is recording backstage conversations, band performances and crowd interviews to run on its music channel through November.
"We're not a small brand, but we're not a goliath either, so you really have to make decisions based on affordability -- and you want guarantees," Mr. Brown said. "Digital offers some flexibility for delivering on original promises that you may not be able to find in print."
JVC's video, called "Turn Me On," was played some 300,000 times in its first week. It's been downloaded more than 1,000 times for reposting on visitors' MySpace pages, Facebook profiles or personal blogs, said John Lumpkin, senior VP-sales strategy and partnerships at Heavy, "which in the magazine world would be the equivalent of ripping out an insert, running down the street and showing it to all your friends."