The exits by New York, an industry darling that's one of the top 50 magazines by revenue, and American Media, which publishes 11 titles including Star and Shape, compound the surprising dropout by Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., which recently decided against paying the membership dues despite the company's close ties to the magazine association. Hachette's CEO until last September, Jack Kliger, served prominently as the association's chairman and spoke out against publishers that don't pay dues for taking a "free ride."
Neither the association nor its members disclose each company's dues, which are based on circulation and ad revenue, but overall dues totaled nearly $10.7 million in 2007, the most recent year for which documents are available. Its biggest expenditures that year were $2.7 million for the Magazine Marketing Coalition, supported by an additional $460,000 contributed by members specifically for that purpose, and $983,000 for lobbying the government on issues such as postal rates.
New York's high regard in the industry makes its exit perhaps as striking as Hachette's. New York received one National Magazine Award last year and was a finalist for another eight. It has been nominated for general excellence each year since 2005, winning in 2007 and 2006. The American Society of Magazine Editors, the editorial unit that resides in the offices of the MPA, produces the awards, but membership in either association isn't necessary to win. And withdrawing from the MPA doesn't automatically cancel a membership in ASME. And as it turns out, New York Editor Adam Moss will remain a member of ASME.
'A difficult year'
"At the time we were asked to rejoin MPA for 2009, we knew the industry was going to have a difficult year and that we would have to allocate our resources carefully," a spokeswoman for New York said. "While we decided to sit out 2009, we hope to be back with the MPA in the future."
A spokesman for American Media confirmed that it had pulled out of the association too, but declined to elaborate. Earlier this month bondholders took control of the company in a pact designed to keep it out of Chapter 11.
The MPA declined to comment on American Media but expressed disappointment about New York. "We regret that New York magazine can no longer sustain its membership in MPA during these challenging times," the association said in a statement. "We look forward to New York magazine rejoining MPA when business conditions improve."
Mr. Kliger's "free ride" crack was aimed at Alpha Media, which had been a member in its previous incarnation as Dennis Publishing. When private equity bought Dennis in 2007, renaming it Alpha, the new owners took a "one-year sabbatical" from membership that has extended beyond one year. That put Alpha in the company of Wenner Media, Bauer Publishing, U.S. News & World Report, Mansueto Ventures and OK on the list of prominent abstainers. Most big publishers -- including Time Inc., Conde Nast, Hearst and Meredith -- remain members.
Not the only one
The magazine association isn't the only industry group facing challenges. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America said Monday it was canceling its 2009 National Convention and Trade Show, scheduled for May 17-19 in Miami, where it was also due to announce its annual Obie Awards for creative achievement in outdoor.
In a note to outdoor media companies and agencies, OAAA president-CEO Nancy Fletcher said the organization had contacted every principal member to gauge their support of this year's trade show. "Many of you are struggling and making difficult decisions related to your businesses," she said. "A common theme we heard in our calls: Now is the time to stay home and take care of our customers and employees."~ ~ ~
Contributing: Andrew Hampp