One of the saddest things about being a media reporter these days is having to report on the constant stories about once-profitable magazine brands imploding into shells of their former selves. So many print publications are folding that it hardly qualifies as news. But if you’re old enough to remember when the dead-tree model was king, you can’t help but mourn the passing of titles that once presided so authoritatively over their respective domains.
According to MediaFinder, 82 magazines closed in 2012. While that number may sound high, it’s far lower than the 152 magazines that closed the year before. In fact, there were fewer closures than launches this year, a fact MediaFinder president Trish Hagood called “heartening” in a statement. So, comparatively speaking, 2012 wasn’t a bad year for magazines, but this being the digital age, we’re still grading on a curve.
Below are the most notable closure announcements of 2012. Most of these publications will still exist in some form, be it tablet versions or websites, but having shed their legacy print editions, they have also lost a bit of their souls. And they all went too soon.
Spin (Launched: 1985 / Publisher: Buzzmedia)
The definitive voice of 1990s alternative rock never quite rose to the level of its rival, Rolling Stone, but it helped launch the careers of some terrific Gen-X wordsmiths, most notably the New York Times’ current ethicist, Chuck Klosterman. When Buzzmedia purchased the Spin brand in July, its CEO, Tyler Goldman, told IBTimes that he was still deciding how print would factor into his plans. The company announced three weeks later that it would cease printing indefinitely. As of now, it still publishes an iPad-only version.
American Artist (Launched: 1937 / Publisher: F+W Media)
No sooner did the reference-book publishing giant F+W Media purchase this perennial art guide than it stopped the presses and turned it into yet another digital download. The move happened rather unceremoniously, with a Facebook status update saying, “We are no longer publishing American Artist, and we’re so sad to see it go!” The announcement was made in October, only two months after F+W purchased American Artist’s parent company, Interweave Press.
Sporting News (Launched: 1886 / Publisher: Advance Publications)
Grover Cleveland was president when this weekly sports magazine published its first issue. Once known as the “Bible of Baseball,” it was the paper of record for sports statistics pertaining to America’s pastime. In recent years, it changed its frequency so often that not even A-Rod could keep up with it. This month, the magazine’s president and publisher, Jeff Price, announced that Sporting News will be an all-digital brand beginning January 2013.
NFL Magazine (Launched: 2012 / Publisher: Dauphin Media Group)
It hasn’t been a good year for sports magazines. This short-lived pet project of the National Football League was reportedly not the victim of poor ad sales or subscriptions, but rather an unsatisfactory business relationship between the NFL and Dauphin Media Group. In April, the NFL announced that it severed ties with Dauphin after only four issues. The league is open to reviving the magazine sometime in the future.
Whole Living (Launched: 1974 as New Age Journal / Publisher: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia)
Kitchen maven Martha Stewart had originally intended to sell off this title as part of a plan to slim down operations at her media company and focus more on the Web. Sadly, those efforts never manifested. In December, the company announced that it will close Whole Living early next year.
Healthy Cooking (Launched: 2008 / Publisher: Reader’s Digest Association)
The second healthy-food title to make this year’s list. Reader’s Digest Association announced in October that it would fold Healthy Cooking into Taste of Home magazine due to weak ad sales. Fortunately, no layoffs were expected.
Nintendo Power (Launched: 1988 / Publisher: Future US)
It’s game over for this news and strategy magazine first launched by Nintendo of America during the classic NES era of “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.” In 2007, the game company outsourced the magazine to Future US, a specialty publisher. In August, however, Nintendo announced that it would not renew its contract, and that the magazine will cease publication in December after 24 years.
Newsweek (Launched: 1933 / Publisher: Newsweek Daily Beast Co.)
The operatic recent history of this storied newsweekly reads like a dime-store novel: Sold for a dollar in 2010 to a nonagenarian business magnate who passed way the following year, the magazine enjoyed a second life of sorts under the Barnumesque vision of Tina Brown. But while Brown’s button-pushing covers got everyone talking, it wasn’t enough to offset estimated losses of $30 million a year, and even Barry Diller admitted that the whole thing was a mistake. Newsweek’s final issue hits newsstands on Dec. 31. The magazine will live on as an all-digital publication called Newsweek Global.
The Daily (Launched: 2011 / Publisher: News Corporation)
Although it had no print edition to speak of, Rupert Murdoch’s peculiar iPad-only experiment is among the most talked-about closures of the year. Touted as a “digital-only newspaper,” The Daily served as a kind of high-profile prototype -- testing the viability of tablet publishing not just for News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA), but for conglomerates everywhere. Although it folded earlier this month amid a chorus of Twitter-born snickers, had it been a success, Big Media would have replicated its paid-subscription model with fanatical reverence. In the end, The Daily simply could not grow its subscriber base big enough to justify its existence, but you have to salute Murdoch for trying.