A certain newspaper carried the following comment: “The publishing industry’s magazine-oriented distribution system has been supporting the unprofitable distribution of books for some time, but as a result the magazine market is now facing an unprecedented crisis. A sea change in the publishing industry is unavoidable. In order to increase profits in these conditions, publishing companies must ease the burden on agents by lowering the return ratio for paper publications and, by promoting the digitization of general works, build sales routes that are not influenced by agent distribution.” The newspaper is quite right, of course, but the task is easier said than done.
The same is true in the world of specialized magazines, but there are almost no examples of success in complete magazine digitization. There are examples of partial digitization, but it is no exaggeration to say that in terms of sales they account for only a tiny share. In the case of digital magazine pages, it is possible to scroll left and right and up and down. Although this might seem highly convenient, actually it is very irritating, and most readers soon lose the desire to carry on. The complete digitization of magazines is difficult.
In our industry, the weakening of specialized magazines would lead to the weakening of the industry itself. As a result of the expansion and evolution of the Internet, people today can access lots of information without having to rely on specialized magazines. This Internet information can be said to be functioning as propaganda.
While general magazines are said to be down by 40%–50%, our specialized magazines are down by only 10%–15%. What is the reason? It is because our specialized magazines are not being superseded by online media. If you take a paper magazine in your hand and flick through the pages, you can jump or go back 100 pages or 200 pages all at once and find the information you are looking for in an instant. I think that the act of flicking through the pages of a paper magazine is actually far more advanced than the method of online browsing. That is why it is so important to utilize and promulgate the essential merits of paper magazines.
It is also vital to make paper magazines all-color. In the age of the Internet, it is taken for granted that screen images are multicolored, so if a specialized paper magazine had many black-and-white pages, readers would think it inferior.
The launch of the Phile-web audiovisual portal site in the summer of 1999 made me realize the need for our specialized magazines to be all-color. In the spring of 2007 I called a manager of Toppan Printing over to our company and explained that for the survival of our magazines, which contained many monochrome pages, I wanted to make them all-color. I also asserted that this was a problem for large printing companies as well.
“Are you telling us to change?” asked the manager. “There is no doubt that everything is going to change in this way,” I replied. “I see,” he said. “Let’s do it.” So, starting with the quarterly magazine Audi Accessory issued on February 21, 2008, all of our magazine went full color, with the exception of black-and-white ads, and have remained so to this day. In addition, we managed to cut costs by 20%, had well-known photographers take picture of products, and changed the size from B5 to A4 modified so as to make the magazines larger and more dynamic.
Amid the slump in the specialized magazine market, we hope to blaze an original trail by linking the functions of paper magazines, the pages of which can be cursorily flipped back and forth, and images on the Phile-web site, which has 1.4 million unique users a month.