Launches Down 16% in 1999

By Holliday, Heather | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, February 2000 | Go to article overview

Launches Down 16% in 1999


Holliday, Heather, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


Industry analyst Samir Husni outlines the prevailing trends among magazines introduced during the 1990s.

* Has the proliferation of cable networks and the Internet stifled the introduction of new magazines? Are start-ups feeling the effects of an overcrowded newsstand? For the greater part of the decade, the answer would have been a resounding "No." The number of new-title introductions soared from 557 in 1990 to 1,065 in 1998. But in 1999, new launches were down 16 percent--the largest drop in 13 years, according to Samir Husni, a professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi.

According to Husni, who has tracked magazine launches for the past 15 years, publishers created 894 new titles last year, 171 less than the year before. But Husni is quick to add that he is not alarmed by the decline. "A trend is not broken by one year of lower numbers," he says, pointing to a number of similar past examples, including a drop of 81 titles in 1997 from 1996's 933 launches. That, he says, was then followed by 1998's jump to 1,065 new titles.

"It may be a big drop, but it's still a lot of new magazines in one year," he says of the 1999 figures. "And there are plenty of magazines out there. When I started in 1985, we had about 2,500 consumer magazines available to the general public. Now we're almost hitting the 6,000 mark."

He attributes the year's drop to an overdue market adjustment in supply and demand. "We are always producing more new launches than we're using," he says.

The last 10 years

The American public now prefers celebrity news to sex, according to Husni's decade-long study of top consumer launch categories. The number-one category in 1999 was media personalities, which totaled 107 launches, as compared to 1990 when sex topped the charts with 62 titles. But the biggest trend among launches in the last decade is that magazines have become ultra-specialized, says Husni. "We have become a segmented society. Ethnicities and lifestyles have been dissected to find the thread that unites the one tiny individual community. Now we are aiming at that." For example, he says, the entire gay population used to have a magazine, now titles are more focused, targeting, for example, gay black men.

The launch climate has also changed in the sense that bigger media companies are funding a greater number of start-ups. "New magazines are no longer the turf of the individual entrepreneur," he says. He attributes this to the success of early entrepreneurial launches. In the eighties, the big media companies focused on their well-established titles, says Husni. "In the early nineties, when those big magazines started losing circulation by leaps and bounds because of all the new launches, it was a wake-up call to the established magazine people. …

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