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Magazine Mergers, Media, and Advertising, Continued…

Talk about a topic that won’t die. People obviously feel strongly about issues surrounding the Macintosh media and how it affects our world. We thought we’d share the following notes before letting the topic drop for the near future.

Graeme Challis <[email protected]> passed on the word that despite our comment about how the Macworld/MacUser merger affected only the U.S. publications, Australian Macworld and Australian MacUser have independently decided to follow suit. I’m not entirely surprised, since the international versions of Macworld and MacUser tend to have smaller circulations and probably face similar issues regarding ad revenue. It’s certainly possible that other mergers will take place, although we haven’t heard definitive word of any at this time.

Adrian <[email protected]> writes:

I’m from the U.K., and I buy (or, perhaps, used to buy) MacUser U.S., and a selection of U.K. magazines. I buy the U.S. magazine because I cannot find the sheer breadth of information here. But I buy U.K. magazines because they include fantastic CD-ROMs. Every time a new piece of software appears on the Internet, my main U.K. Mac magazine (MacFormat) includes it on a cover-mounted CD-ROM. I have a library of CD-ROMs from the magazine covering the last two years. When I see a piece of software I want, I do a search and hopefully copy it from a CD rather than spend 15 minutes on the Internet downloading it. [Something that’s not always as easily done in countries outside of North America. -Adam] I have about half a terabyte of data waiting for me thanks to MacFormat. Perhaps the new Macworld could try something along these lines.


MacHome Journal may not be as well known as some of the magazines aimed more at professionals, but several people have commented that it offers a level of Macintosh news and information that’s better targeted toward novice Macintosh users than most other magazines.


Neil Ticktin <[email protected]> of MacTech Magazine writes that my comment about most magazines making most of their revenues on advertising may be true for many publications, but there are also significant exceptions.

Your comment is quite accurate for many publications out there, but you stated it in such a uniform way that it seems like you are saying it’s true for nearly all publications (except the examples you cited). Because of this, I’ve already received feedback from readers asking "Why are your subscription prices high when you make your real money from advertisers?" MacTech, for instance, earns revenue from three main sources: subscriptions, advertising, and the CD. Newsstand sales are not really worth doing, and advertising isn’t anywhere near the main source of revenue.

Ads and Catalogs — Roy Leban’s comments about the catalogs refusing to carry products for which ads weren’t purchased generated a few dissenting notes from people who had successfully ordered products that weren’t featured in a catalog. And, some catalog vendors, such as Developer Depot, will carry any appropriate products (developer tools, in Developer Depot’s case) regardless of advertising. In addition, Steve Chambers <[email protected]> wrote:

I can’t speak for other catalog companies, but I know from intimate experience (four and a half years in the technical support department) that MacWarehouse carries an enormous amount of product that never reaches the catalog. However, what Roy may be referring to is the marketing department’s refusal to carry some products because of the perceived market for those products. In other words, if the marketing rep for part of the catalog does not feel a product will benefit the bottom line, they won’t carry that product without an ad buy. And believe me, those ads are expensive!

It’s the same problem other manufacturers face when breaking into markets – competition for shelf space. It matters little whether or not that shelf is in a small strip mall storefront or a huge warehouse. The fact remains that the people who own the shelf space have publishers over a barrel. Even if retail stores owned a larger share of the market (as in the PC business) Roy would have the same problem – no shelf space, making it difficult for a small company to get ahead in this world.

Roy Leban <[email protected]> replies:

I can’t speak for how the catalog companies treat other companies, but I know no catalog company was willing to carry our products without us first buying ads. Even with an ad purchase, the catalog companies would not make any commitment to stock our product. If we bought an ad, they wanted payment up front. If they bought product, they wanted to pay in 60 or 90 days, with a guarantee that they could return everything they bought for full credit at any time.

I’ve also spoken with people at other companies about this issue. The president of one company told me they would advertise each of their products for one month on a rotating basis so that they always had an ad. That way, the catalog company would keep their products in stock. If they dropped the ad for a month, they would get all the products sent back.

Of course, all this is a side issue to the fact that the money siphoned off by the catalogs has hurt magazines tremendously, and that’s a loss for consumers. What we get is two or three catalogs mailed to each of us every month instead of better magazines. In my view, that’s not a good trade.

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