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Computer magazines dying out – mystery solved?

While the computer industry moves from one new technology to the next, increasing the percentage of those who ‘have access’ all the time – the computer magazines themselves continue a long, slow, lingering death. While there may be many reasons for the huge downturn over the past 10 years – including the advent of the internet – something else must surely be contributing. KitGuru ponders how to buy products that are not on sale.

Most of the older Gurus will remember the Personal Computer World Show, which took place annually in the early days of the PC industry. When it first arrived in 1978, it predated not only the original PC, but also the ZX-80/81 etc. The show really sprang to life during the hard core battle between the Atari, BBC and Commodore products – with companies like Vector (Apricot) and Osbourne entering later to add their own kind of spice. For a full list of combatants, try this link and see which ones you remember.

PCW magazine itself managed to partner up with publishing genius Felix Dennis and you can read a fascinating account of the various deals being done in those days in Dennis’ ‘How to Get Rich‘ book [Not to be confused with his amazing poetry books – Ed].

Toward the end of the nineties, the print media industry was enjoying a golden era where selling less than 100,000 copies of something each month, meant you were a ‘small mag’, while the biggest and baddest magazines managed to ship close to 200,000 copies of what can only be described as a serious book (with over 1,000 pages each issue). It doesn’t take a maths genius to work out that just the advertising was generating over £1m a month from one mag alone – and don’t forget that the magazine was sold the length and breadth of the country.

These days, comparatively speaking, the same magazine is doing quite well with a certified circulation of 27,000 – around 10,000 of which are sold in news agents up and down the country.

‘Well’ is comparative, because you are talking about a market which also includes titles whose certified circulation shows they sell around 3,000 copies a month. Across the whole of the UK.

If we multiply the number of pages that biggest magazine was producing each month by the number of issues sold, then we get 190,000 x 1,100 = an incredible 209 million ‘People-Pages’. For the sake of this comparison, a ‘People-Page’ is like an impression on a web site. It’s a chance for a reader to come in contact with a page in a magazine.

Based on available data these days, the same title is offering just over 4 million ‘People-Pages’.

That’s a drop off in ‘People-Pages’ of something like 98%.

Wow.

While we can all sit and speculate about the reasons for the drastic decline in the print media market, but one factor was highlighted by photos taken in major supermarkets over the past few days.

KitGuru is fond of the opinion that ‘you can only buy what it being offered’, so when a product is simply ‘not present’, then sales must fall.

Here’s an example from a supermarket’s ‘Computing’ section – and some magazines from yesteryear than you may or may not recognise. We loved em all at one point, but now they’re gone. We genuinely wish the print media was stronger, because seeing the latest topics on the front of them when you’re shopping sparks interest – and that’s good for all of us.

Massive computing section with no computing magazines! How can you generate sales when there's nothing to buy? Also, which of the now-defunct-in-the-UK print mags on the right do you recognise?

KitGuru says:It’s sad to see so many titles slipping away – and the ones that are left are now printed on lower grade paper than back in their hay day. We like the idea of a vibrant press, because it energises the industry overall – and walking past a magazine stacked full of computer mags with SHOUT OUT LOUD headlines, will stimulate readers to go on line and read more from KitGuru etc. But, in our heart of hearts, we know that the model difficult and that more mags will go in 2013/14.  It’s just a sad reality for the print media industry.

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