Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Out of Print - but Not Business

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Out of Print - but Not Business

Article excerpt

Online technology, an ancillary business opportunity for many magazines, has become a means of survival for others. In the past few months, at least three publications - the mass-market Omni and the lesser-known Shade and Adcom - have opted to check their troubled print versions at the door of the online universe in an attempt to reinvent themselves electronically and financially.

General Media International announced in March that the 700,000-circulation Omni would transform from a subscription-based monthly into a newsstand-only quarterly, acting as a supplement to its America Online site and an upcoming World Wide Web locale on the Internet.

Keith Ferrell, editor of the 14-year-old science title, says going further online is a logical step for a magazine that's about the future. "We decided somebody was going to have to take the plunge," he says. "And since we're Omni, we thought we'd do it."

Of course, as with any major transition, the Omni move isn't quite as simple as a press release might make it sound. Increased postal rates and paper costs probably played a part in the General Media decision, too, along with a shrinking subscriber base and declining ad pages. (Although the New York City-based magazine posted a 15 percent increase in ad pages last year, to 672 from 586, according to figures compiled by Publishers information Bureau, that was still down from Omni's 1992 total of 724 ad pages.)

Robert Pondiscio, public affairs director for Time, which has a major online presence, says he thinks Omni's switch is premature. "I don't think the level of usage right now can support an online product alone," he argues. "And as an ad medium, there's a lot to be resolved. I don't think the publishing industry is ready for this.

Magazine watchers can debate the wisdom of the Omni move until the cyber cows come home. …

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