Paul Rossi, The Economist's publisher for North America, said consumers won't expect magazines to stop using paper, but they will soon demand reduced resource consumption and less greenhouse-gas production.
'Next on the list'
"We as an industry are next on the list as a target," Mr. Rossi said, speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Magazine Publishers of America. Under current practices, for one thing, selling magazines on newsstand involves throwing away many, many unsold copies -- sometimes three out of four delivered to the racks. "We have to wake up to this," he said. "We need to be able to say we're working on an answer."
The industry will change in the face of other pressures too, including the growing importance of ideas and knowledge in American culture and business, according to Mr. Rossi. Amid the glut of bite-sized news items and vapid celebrity coverage, readers seeking strong ideas are already gravitating toward magazines organized around ideas, he said, citing Dwell, Wired, Paste and, naturally, The Economist as beneficiaries.
You won't find strong ideas in most magazines on newsstands, Mr. Rossi argued. "I would argue that you find less smart than you used to," he said. "I would argue that magazines with a very strong sense of mission, a very strong sense of self, are winning."
The internet, of course, is also changing the landscape, but Mr. Rossi said he was confident magazines will fare well in the digital age -- certainly better than newspapers.
Some of his confidence comes from efforts like WillYouJoinUs.com, which The Economist helped develop for a Chevron campaign and became part of an integrated buy with the magazine and its own website. He also cited an encouraging Facebook fan group called ""Sir, I am rather fond of your publication The Economist". It has 10,811 members. There's a rival group he didn't mention, "Sir, I find your publication The Economist dull and tiresome", but that one has just 41 members.