It seems that every few months someone is declaring the death of print magazines, yet it hasn't happened yet and doesn't appear that it will happen anytime soon. The greatest danger to print magazines comes from a lack of advertising dollars and magazines must find a way to adapt if they hope to continue to survive. Food magazines must heed this advice.
There was a recent article on Women's Wear Daily called Food Advertisers Cinching Belts which discusses the decreasing amount of food advertising being done in food magazines. In 2009, when many other advertisers had significantly reduced their ads, food companies only decreased their ads by 5%, a much smaller percentage. But, in 2011, food ads dropped 17%, more than any other advertising group that year, and such a large decrease is worrisome. Some magazines fared better than others, such as Food & Wine which only dropped 3% and Food Network Magazine which actually had a 12% gain!
Now remember that we are only talking about food related advertising, and not other forms of advertising. Thus, to compensate for the decrease of food advertisers, many of these magazines are expanding their advertising targets, accepting more ads for luxury goods and travel. That is why you may be seeing more ads for items like Rolex watches or Lexus automobiles.
The article provides some speculation as to the reasons for the decreased food advertising, from the popping of a "food bubble" to the recession. Yet there is no mention about alternative markets that food companies might be approaching. Magazine advertising is certainly not cheap, and it may be much less expensive for food companies to avail themselves of other marketing avenues.
If you are a food blogger, you have likely received numerous email pitches about various food products and services. You might be offered samples or asked to run a contest on your blog. A number of these products will be new, just entering the market, and the companies are hoping to generate buzz for their products. These same companies also have the opportunity to advertise in print media, the numerous food magazines, yet apparently they are starting to choose that option less and less. They are exploring the potential return of interest from blogger outreach, and whether it delivers more than magazine advertising. Only time will tell if these new efforts pay off for food companies.
The article has some positive information on the alleged death of magazines. Despite frequent doomsayers some food magazines have actually been seeing growth. For example in 2011, newsstand figures for Bon Appétit have increased by 12% and Food Network Magazine by 15%. That is excellent growth for a supposed dying industry.