Robin Parkes, executive director of the Magazine Publishers of Australia (MPA) has defended magazines after founder of online women’s hub Mamamia, Mia Freedman, publicly questioned the medium’s relevance last week.
In an address to the Sydney Institute last Wednesday, Freedman, a former editor of Cleo, Cosmopolitan and Dolly, told the crowd magazines were becoming increasingly insignificant in the world of the 24 hour news cycle – a world where news is created, distributed and ingested fast and, in the case of the latter, for free.
“Women in particular are voracious consumers of information, but we inhale quickly and we move on,” she said.
“The magazines, which I loved madly as a reader, and then as a writer and editor, are produced monthly or weekly – but the reality is that Australian women don’t live their lives in increments of months or weeks or even days. We live our lives in increments of half hours, sometimes minutes – and if you’re mother of a child under two, best make that seconds.
“We don’t wait for magazines anymore. We have information coming to us from the internet and social media much faster than we can consume it. For free.”
Parkes, who spearheaded the MPA’s relaunch late last year and is driving the new ‘Magazines move me’ campaign, today highlighted the fiscal value of the magazine industry and told B&T she thought Freedman’s views were “out of touch with the reality of the marketplace”.
“Australian consumers continue to have a strong relationship with printed magazines, spending almost $850m on magazines in the 12 months to December 2012,” she told B&T.
“Despite volatile economic conditions that curbed some discretionary spending, the majority of magazine titles (over 60%) delivered readership growth. Magazines are still resonating and relevant which is why 93% of adults still read magazines.”
Parkes also said Freedman had ignored the growing multiplatform initiatives undertaken by magazine publishers.
“I think Mia’s view is simply too narrow – she is looking at the printed product only. Today more than ever magazines reach people across multiple platforms – and can indeed cover everything from breaking news, to great feature reads and hot trends.
“While blogs certainly have their place, they just can’t replicate the trusted relationship readers have with magazines.
“In our fast paced media landscape our audience lives in a plus world – not digital or print – they embrace both.”
Parkes referred to Vogue as an example of a multi-platform approach, highlighting that the title now publishes multiple times a day, not just once a month, to a “highly engaged community” via its re-launched website.
She also contested Freedman’s remarks about the inability of magazines to deliver information in a timely manner. According to Parkes, being timely is not the purpose of magazines.
“Magazines are about far more than just ‘breaking news’; they are forward focused looking to discover what’s hot and what’s next. They inspire and influence people into action. After all, magazines are not a passive media; they are deeply engaged communities of readers who have paid to participate.
“Add to this multi-platform magazine brand extensions and social media and the engagement is both longer and deeper. Magazines provide the perfect medium for a 360 degree conversation with readers.
Freedman last week said that women were no longer interested in being told how to improve their lives from on high. “They’re far more likely to crowd-source advice and information from a variety of online sources, social media accounts and the comments on women’s websites,” she said.
But Parkes said the advice offered by magazines was uniquely trusted by readers, unlike crowd-sourced content.
“Core to the strength of magazines is that our brands are trusted and enduring. As a source of information magazines are credible, and valued enough by readers to pay for them, unlike the more disposable, un-sourced information provided by free blogs. And that trust and credibility translates to magazine brands on web, mobile and tablet.”