Magazines: Special Report

"So tell me, why isn't this interview live?" Ian Locks, the chief executive of the Periodical Publishers Association, asked me wryly a few weeks ago. We had been discussing the future of magazines and Locks remembered an interview he had given ten years ago on the same subject. E-mail was fairly new then and talk of live interviews via cameras fixed to computers was just one of the things predicted to kill off printed magazines.

"Ten years on, this hasn't happened," Locks pointed out. The doom-mongers' predictions, it seems, have been wild.

Even so, the digital age has moved too quickly for some. Consumer magazines in general, and specialist magazines in particular, have struggled. Only the business sector - after some painful restructuring - can seriously claim to be profiting from all things digital.

But does a medium that creates 400 new products every year and persuades consumers to part with £2 billion to buy them so desperately need to digitise?

Most big publishers are making healthy profits overseas (page 36). Others are thriving by selling creatively (this page). "Most lifestyle magazines and even many b2b magazines are doing just fine with print-based advertising," Donald Kummerfeld, the president of FIPP, the international magazine body, wrote in Magazine World, "while advertising from their digital products is still miniscule."

However, digital media will mean magazine readers will not just be "readers" for long. Half of UK publishers (Campaign's included) have plans to podcast their brands in the next 12 months, while mobile is already a major interest for the likes of Maxim and FHM.

So which sector will move first to flush these young channels with cash?

Like it or not, it will inevitably be that unsung anti-hero of the publishing industry: pornography (page 39).