American magazine, Prevention, has taken the radical step of eliminating print ads as it struggles to stay financially viable.
Starting in July, the Rodale-owned publication will no longer accept print advertising, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The magazine will, however, continue to sell ads on Prevention.com. Come July, it will also introduce a new section on the website for ad-free magazine content that will only be available to subscribers.
Rodale has positioned the change as a cost-savings measure that will help it return to profitability following a substantial drop in subscribers and single-copy sales over the past 10 years. Rodale chief executive Maria Rodale told The Wall Street Journal the change will lead to a 50% reduction in operating expenses. The company has let go of 13 salespeople, leaving a staff of just three to handle digital ad sales.
In a statement sent to Marketing, a Rodale spokesperson said, “The new Prevention will be a magazine that today’s health-minded consumer wants, needs and will pay for…with the new ad-free business model, we can now focus on generating consumer revenue, which has always been the driving force in Prevention’s success as a brand.”
The spokesperson added that there are no plans for other Rodale titles, such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World to go ad-free.
While the decision to drop print ads may help Prevention‘s financials in the short term, Schulich School of Business assistant professor of marketing Ela Veresiu said she does not see the change as the quick route to profitability as Rodale has positioned it to be.
Veresiu suggested the magazine may consider branded content as a potential revenue generator in lieu of traditional print ads. Not considering that route would be a lost opportunity, she said. Rodale said it has no such plans.
As Prevention goes ad-free in print, readers will bare the cost of change. The news of its ad-free strategy came along with a one dollar increase from $3.99 to $4.99 on newsstands and the announcement of a doubling of subscription fees to $48 annually starting in July.
Magazines Canada CEO Matthew Holmes said the changes at Prevention are emblematic of the way publishers are experimenting with a variety of different pricing models, price points and revenue streams.
However, Holmes said he doesn’t expect many others to follow suit in dropping print ads. In Canada, he said magazines have generally relied more on subscriptions than their peers in the U.S., but advertising still accounts for a substantial portion of the revenue at most magazines.
Going ad-free will only work for certain types of magazines, Holmes said, noting that some Magazines Canada members covering arts, literature and culture are currently ad-free. Some examples of predominantly ad-free magazines in Canada include Room, The New Quarterly and Prism. Because Prevention‘s readers are interested in health, an area in which transparency is important, he thinks the ad-free route could work.
“This isn’t necessarily a fit for every magazines, but for [Prevention], I could see it working.”