For the final Opinion piece of 2013 we asked Steve Watson of Stack Magazines – whose website has just been relaunched to mark its fifth anniversary – to give us some publishing predictions for the year ahead. As ever you can join the debate below…
I once heard somebody say that nobody remembers the predictions that don’t come true, but get it right and you’ll be considered a sooth-saying genius. So it’s in that spirit I’m going to stick my neck out and make my three predictions for independent publishing in 2014….
1. Print will die (again)
In the next 12 months, one of Britain’s quality newspapers will cease daily print production. The leak in October of Financial Times editor Lionel Barber’s memo to staff made it clear that he sees his organisation as digital-first, while 2012 saw The Guardian fall below the symbolic 200,000 average daily sales for the first time, and The Independent’s fifth redesign in as many years looked a lot like the desperate wave of a drowning title (to put The Guardian’s numbers into context, The Independent was down to under 70,000 copies a day in September).
As soon as any of those big media brands make even the slightest move away from print, the shrieking will begin. The fact is that print probably doesn’t make much sense for newspaper companies in the long run, but small independent publishers can do great things with ink on paper, and 2014 will see even more innovation as people continue making magazines that matter to them.
2. Business models will evolve
Kickstarter has become the de facto way to start a new magazine, providing would-be publishers with both seed money and a built-in subscriber list. Magazines like Intern have shown what’s possible when a clear editorial vision is combined with a solid Kickstarter campaign plan, but that’s just the beginning.
Paul Carr’s NSFW Corp pivoted its way to Pando Daily last month, the latest step in a publishing experiment that mixes old fashioned subscriptions with Silicon Valley VCs. Elsewhere, Offscreen editor and publisher Kai Brach publicly published his accounts, showing that cover sales plus sponsorship can make for a sustainable business.
For hundreds of years publishers have plumped their numbers and obfuscated, but this trend towards transparency will help to forge a new (and better) way of doing business.
3. Innovation will rule
When Apple unveiled Newsstand at the end of 2011, print publishers leapt at the opportunity to have their magazines reproduced, page for page, on every phone and iPad. Two years on and Apple’s apparent lack of interest in its own product and readers’ mass ambivalence have shown that the only recipe for success is a genuinely interesting editorial product.
Launches like FAT, Muff and Printed Pages took fresh approaches to print this year, and with Newsstand fading fast I’d love to think 2014 could see similar innovation in digital magazine making.