Blasts from the Past

Blasts from the Past

We all have perfect vision in hindsight. Here’s a look at predictions made in the pages of CM during the past 15 years. As usual, some are uncannily on the mark, others way off and a few, in retrospect, just a bit wacky.

THOMAS HOLLANDER, Publishers’ Development Corp., “Distribution’s Dire straits,” January 1990: Wanted by the year 2000: A new, economically feasible distribution system for both single and subscription copies of magazines. To be effective, system should bypass both USPS regulations and the network of independent distributors…

Entire issues of magazines might be packed onto a diskette or set of diskettes. Subscribers would bring up the issue onscreen and print out only certain articles or sections. Postage would be kept to a minimum and printing bills would be virtually nonexistent…Single copies could be downloaded into a ‘newsstand computer,’ either by store or by wholesaler. The number of titles available would be limited only by the disk storage capacities of the computer. No space problem for the retailer means no ‘approved’ or ‘restricted’ lists. No return problem means no need for a fleet of trucks to haul issues to and from the newsstand…

If telephone technology and equipment advance as fast as computers, publishers could move even further into the electronic age. Rather than including a subscriber’s address, subscription lists would be made up of telephone numbers. Digitized and compacted, issues would be sent at very high speeds over telephone lines…

Computers would dial subscribers’ lines, download the issue and move on to the next phone call. The regulations, woes and costs of second class would be forgotten.

DAN CAPELL, Publishing Consultant, “capell’s Crystal Ball,” February 1990:

* ABC’s new auditing opportunity: verification of magazine advertising revenues, as rate-cutting becomes rampant.

* ABC publisher statement trend: publication of renewal rates.

* Hottest magazine categories: business/finance, spectator sports and health and fitness.

* Coolest magazine categories: automotive, computer, women’s service.

* First consumer magazine subscription price to break $100 per year: Time.

* Buzzword of the 1980’s to die out in the 1990’s: databases.

* First category of magazines to significantly cut back on newsstand distribution: the newsmagazines.

* Fastest-growing publisher: American Express Publishing.

* Source with biggest growth potential: gift subscriptions.

* Biggest flop of the 1990’s: alternate delivery.

PETER SPRAGUE, Periodicals Studies Services, “16 B-to-B Publishing Trends in the Decade Ahead,” January 1991:

* There will be an increased concentration of ownership among business publishers. Most likely, you will be working for a media conglomerate in the 90’s.

* Continued advances in computer technology will afford you a greater capacity to store data and increase your ability to manipulate that data.

* Acquiring and requalifying subscribers will become more difficult and expensive. You will need to continue to search for innovative techniques to stimulate response. The telephone will become an ever-increasing factor in your planning. And your circulation budgets will continue to increase, whether your publisher likes it or not.

* Consolidation in fulfillment services will accelerate.

* Consumer magazines will adopt B-to-B circulation methods, such as use of controlled circulation and capture of demographic and purchasing information.

* Circulation professionals remain in extraordinarily short supply, sc salaries will expand at a rate well in excess of inflation.

HAL ORINGER, then VP, Circulation, Meredith Corp., now VP, Strategic Planning and Business Development. Newsweek Inc., “What’s Ahead for Circulation?,” August 1995: “If we were smart, we’d all find another business…The challenges are already upon us. The biggest will continue to be the low perceived value of magazines on the part of the consumer, I believe that we’ll continue to see a falloff in production by PCH and AFP…I also think that it’s going to be harder to make direct mail work because of rising costs that can’t be easily recouped by passing pricing increases along to the consumer. I think we’re going to see an enormous amount of focus and pressures on rate bases…There will be opportunities in new media, but God only knows what they’re going to be.”

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