@ PPA: Online Suspicion From Print Mag Publishers

Comment of the day, at the end of the Periodical Publishers Association’s Magazines 2008 conference, must go to Future Publishing (LSE: FUTR) CEO Stevie Spring, in a panel of 10 magazine bosses: “In a world where any Tom, Dick or Harry – and one w***er that I was married to – calls themselves a publisher, there is a feeling on the dinner party circuit that the barriers to entry are higher (than online). At the FT, it’s much easier to publish a blog than it is to publish the FT.”

So at said soirees, even at times of multiplatform diversification, Spring unashamedly introduces herself as a magazine publisher. Despite online commitments, there was plenty of commitment to print, even suspicion toward the web, here…

Economy: Asked what the top consideration is for the magazine business, IPC Media CEO Sylvia Auton said: “The recession: number one. This new interactivity people are demanding is putting new stresses on our resources, plus the development of cost-efficient technologies.” Oh, and the environment: “Next thing you know, we’ll be taxed for every unsold copy or something stupid like that.” But Bauer Consumer Media CEO Paul Keenan disagreed on the economy: “I think we’re at great risk of talking ourselves in to a downturn.” Spring: “We’re not battening down the hatches but we’re making lots and lots of small bets.” On online costs, Soring added: “Operating online is very expensive and, if you can’t counterbalance that with subscription revenues … it’s the biggest challenge.”

Metrics: Dennis Publishing CEO James Tye, talking of his Monkey digital magazne: “There was no set method for auditing a digital magazine so we had to invent one with ABC, who were v helpful. we shouldn’t measure an e-magazine like a website. While we could measure unique users, a lot of people want them to be recorded like a conventional title.” So Monkey registers unique “opens” of each edition.

Spring: “Whilst I applaud some of the big numbers that we all get online (11 million uniques against four million magazines for Future), I wouldn’t dream of comparing the impact from engagement that we get in our magazine products to that which we get online.” She criticised what she said was the belief that “all impacts are equal” from newspaper metrics gatherer ABC, which now groups together print and online readership figures. That’s “the death of really good, expensive content so I’m absolutely against it”.