Magazines (might) Raise Prices and How it affects Photography

So if you didn’t already know, the magazine industry is in a bit of paradigm shift.  It’s seeing their advertisers jump ship to spend their marketing dollars on the web, where they can potentially reach a much wider base of consumers.  That, in turn, has left many magazines coming up severely short on their annual revenue, after all a magazine’s primary source of income is ads and not it’s subscription base.  Here’s a NYTimes chart that shows the decline in revenue on a magazine to magazine basis.   It’s really interesting, actually.

Coming up short on annual revenue has caused many magazines to skimp on their creative talent such as photographers, writers, designers, etc.  (Side Note)  Have you ever looked at a magazine rack these days?  Notice something in common?  No?  Look a little closer.  You’ll notice that many, if not most, of the magazine covers are simply head shots of the latest sensation in Hollywood or a ridiculously attractive celebrity.  The photography is solid, but nothing inspiring or overly special.   Now combine this knowledge with the chart mentioned earlier.  Notice a pattern?  Look closely at the chart and you’ll notice that the magazines that saw an increase in advertising revenue were mostly celebrity, beauty, and TV/Hollywood related magazines.  Some of the biggest decreases included Stuff and FHM.  You know why?  It’s b/c most teenage and young men who read those magazines can see half naked girls on the web for free.  And if they try hard enough can probably find a pair of bare female breasts.

So what does that mean for the average photographer aspiring to get published and make it big? It means, keep your day job, b/c the pros that used to shoot for magazines are now trickling down to the lower level gigs that the aspiring photogs used to covet, such as test shoots for local modeling agencies.  It also means, don’t follow the pack.  Make your photography unique and interesting.  If it looks like every other photographer out there, why would they want to hire a newbie with no successful track record of delivering images on time and on budget.

Back to the magazines… this NYTimes Article talks about how some magazines are actually raising their prices with mixed results, to recoup some of the lost income.  One of the more interesting quotes from the article include: “Think about the cost of a movie ticket. Think about the cost of your subscription for cable television. Think about the cost of going to a sporting event,” Mr. Clinton, the Hearst marketing chief, said. Those industries, he said, “have kept pace in passing on more of the cost to the consumer, and the consumer’s willing to pay for it.”.

The article continues with: “It’s amazing how price-sensitive people are,” said David Ball, the vice president for consumer marketing at Meredith, which owns magazines like More and Fitness. “Honestly, we’ve tested raising it 50 cents and we see a drop-off — sometimes startlingly high.”

Long story short, this does not bode well for photographers looking to be the next big magazine photographer….  Best of Luck to all and keep shooting!

One Response to “Magazines (might) Raise Prices and How it affects Photography”

  1. Luis Ongpin

    good article…

    and here i thought my clients were just being cheapskates.

    As for being the next big magazine photographer, the cream always rises to the top, it’s a small circle up there and if you even get near it that’s enough for a lot of people, for a lot of people, it’s either you have it or you don’t, the recession simply weeds out those with somewhat above-average work, but not at the vanity fair or top magazine level.

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