Tough to Believe in ‘Thriving’ Magazine Market

A recent headline from the Washington Post website seems a bit misleading: “Despite magazine industry downturn, NFL, college football and fantasy football previews are thriving.”

The article opens by seeming to offer the proliferation in number of fantasy (and non-fantasy) football preview magazines as evidence of that thriving market. That, though, was followed by the truly good news: that second quarter 2010 presented the first time in nine quarters that the magazine industry saw gains in total pages and advertising revenue.

That, of course, followed big losses the previous two years — including the folding of more than 36 publications.

Specific to the football arena, Fantasy Football Index reportedly saw circulation drop 9 percent from 2008 to 2009 (24 percent from 2007 to 2009).

On the other hand, Lindy’s reportedly has seen gains in sales of its NFL preview magazine, and the article passes along word from Sporting News that its annuals still turn a profit.

So which is it? Are things bleak for magazine producers or is this a solid market segment whose target audience is so devoted to the games — or too lazy to compile its own draft lists — that the support will continue on? At best, the truth sure seems to lie somewhere between “thriving” and dying.

Last summer, Nando Di Fino wrote up this report in The Wall Street Journal in which RotoWire’s Chris Liss concedes that his company’s fantasy football preview magazine probably would not turn a profit and that it wasn’t really expected to. More than a moneymaker, the magazine serves as a big shiny ad — positioning the RotoWire name in front of potential customers and providing a strong business front for potential partners.

That report relayed the anecdote of CBS Sports doing away with its print preview mag in favor of an electronic version — not something you do with a profitable product — and Sporting News reporting a 19 percent dip in fantasy football yearbook sales from 2007 to 2008.

We’re sure there are some print publications that continue to make money, and as Lindy Davis pointed out in the Washington Post story, there are factors that make it easier for sports annuals to survive.

“A lot of magazines have been giving their product away for years to get the ad dollars,” the Lindy’s publisher told the Post. “Twelve issues for 12 bucks, and we’re charging eight bucks for one. So we’re charging top dollar, that’s one thing. And there’s just an incredible passion for sports in America. Good economy, bad economy, it doesn’t affect it. And sports can sometimes be a refuge in bad times.”

The slashes in print ad spending and saturation of the market makes it a tough time to make your money with a magazine, though, even one that caters to the devoted fantasy audience. would love to hear some facts from any of our readers who are still plugging away on the print side, so contact us at [email protected] to share.


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  2. Fantasy Sports Business » Blog Archive » Magazine Producers Need Labor Resolution by NFL Draft Says:

    [...] The magazine business is tough enough these days, and fantasy content providers likely face an uphill battle to generate profits from these publications under normal [...]