Sunday, November 27, 2011

I've worked in the magazine industry for the past decade, and there's one thing I know that many casual observers don't seem to comprehend: the magazine business is a business. I've seen entirely too many glossies launch and fail over the last few years, largely because the people behind them either have no publishing experience or don't fully understand all of the pieces that must be put in place for a magazine to have a chance to succeed. Furthermore, I feel that post-2008 has not been a good time to launch a new magazine. I'm sure you've seen some of your favorite titles fold or continue to publish at 50 to 75 percent of the size (number of pages) they once were. This is mostly attributed to the decline in advertising revenue that magazines--and most media outlets--have experienced since the recession. Companies aren't making the money they used to--retail stores, fashion brands, airlines, car companies, electronics, record labels, etc.--so they aren't advertising like they used to. Fewer ads mean fewer magazine pages for stories, and fewer ads mean less revenue for a business to operate.

So before I go too long on my soap box, please know that I love magazines, they're partly how I make my living, and I hope they thrive for another century (even if it is on iPads, Kindles, and tablet PCs). It's just that I was surprised to learn that the National Football League is launching a new magazine in December. But then again, I'm not.

The inaugural edition of NFL Magazine is scheduled to hit newsstands nationwide on December 13. Most magazines make most of their money off of subscriptions, newsstand sales, and paid advertisements, which is the largest chunk of revenue. NFL Magazine is coming into the game facing the same challenges as other more established mags and will be fighting for a share of the advertising dollars, but my guess is that the NFL believes that publishing a monthly magazine year-round centering on a five-month season will make good business sense.

The league launched the NFL Network eight years ago to give fans around-the-clock, year-round television coverage of professional football, and that's been going well, right? Not necessarily. Most fans who subscribe to NFL Network have satellite TV or one of a few major cable companies. But some of the nation's largest cable companies, like Time Warner Cable and Cablevision, don't offer the NFL Network to their customers. And documents that leaked over the summer while the league was locked out over a collective bargaining agreement with players showed that NFL Network is one of the few league products that loses money. The league operates NFL Ventures, which oversees its sponsorships, marketing, media properties, sales, and satellite rights, and I assume is where NFL Magazine will fall under. NFL Ventures' operating profit reportedly grew by 29 percent from 2009 to 2010 to $1.8 billion, which is a sizable chunk of the league's $8 billion in revenue.

So basically, folks, the NFL is being greedy. It is making so much money that it can afford to launch another media property--this time a magazine--that I'm betting will never become profitable. It loses money on NFL Network, but continues to operate it because it wants its own network, despite the fact that ABC, ESPN, FOX, and NBC pay it billions to broadcast games. Now it wants a magazine, to compete with the likes of ESPN The Magazine (owned by ESPN obviously) and Sports Illustrated (owned by Time Warner). NFL Magazine might draw a decent number of subscribers early on because it has so many vehicles in which to market it, but I'm curious to see how great of an editorial product it will be. ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated are both lauded for their fan appeal as well as their thorough reporting and journalism. While each of them cover several of the major sports and not just the NFL, they're not afraid to criticize the sports leagues. Will NFL Magazine offer criticisms of the league? Roger Goodell isn't always right, you know.

But I digress. You might want to pick up a copy of the first issue of NFL Magazine next month. It features our guy Cam Newton on the cover. That's a big deal for Cam and it's great national exposure for the Carolina Panthers. You might want to read it since leading-rookie-of-the-year-candidate and rookie-records-breaker Cam hasn't done much press this season--access is something the magazine is touting: "Go where no other magazine can," one of its taglines reads. And you might want to own this copy because it could one day become a collector's item when NFL Magazine no longer exists.

UPDATE: April 2012

NFL Magazine has folded after only four issues. Below is the statement posted on
Information Regarding NFL Magazine Subscriptions
Thank you for your interest in NFL Magazine. We regret to inform you that at this time NFL Magazine is not accepting any new or renewal orders for this product and will not be publishing additional issues after the Special 2012 Draft Issue, dated April 2012.

If you are a current subscriber with a fully-paid account and have a balance of unserved issues after the Special 2012 Draft Issue, you will be refunded for all unserved issues.


Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails