Skip to content

How a 100-year-old magazine used this marketing lesson to survive the great magazine death of 2020

You’re not going to like what I’m about to say, but here’s a marketing lesson for anyone with a business: big, small, new or established.


Unless you are ultra-specific about who your market is, and unless you are actually relevant to that market, your business is doomed to fail.

In the case of magazines, the writing has been on the wall for years: magazine sales, subscriptions and readership has dwindled…and has only been kept on life support by publishers who have vested interests in keeping their magazine divisions alive because they need them to keep their printing businesses afloat.

There is a reason why 100-year-old Farmer’s Weekly survived the death of Caxton’s magazine division.

It comes directly from any marketing playbook that’s worth its salt: it has successfully carved out a market niche that only it can fill; it is integral to emerging and established farmers’ business success and offers supporting businesses exposure to their target market. And it has done this successfully for more than a century.

Many other consumer titles failed to establish themselves as necessities to their markets.

To be clear, though, the death of many consumer magazines pains me as much as it does anyone who has had the privilege of working within a publishing environment – I cut my teeth at Farmer’s Weekly and sharpened them at People Magazine – but even I can be honest with myself and admit that the magazine publishing industry was too slow to change and ignored the very principle of marketing: finding and serving a market; and staying relevant to that market.

And being relevant also means you need to be where your market is: Caxton was slow to adapt to online and failed to leverage this medium in time.

Many other factors are to blame (magazines defined as a luxury purchase in a constrained economy, Covid…) but this would not have been a death knell had any one of these magazines adopted a marketing mindset from the start.

At the end, consumers chose what was more important to them…and magazines that ended up publishing the same content as everyone else saw them lose market interest, importance and support.

The long and the short of it is that if you are building a new business from the ground up, or if your business is struggling to differentiate itself from that of your competitors, you need to choose a lane and stick to it.

Over and above this: you need to be visible to your market so that they choose you over everyone else.

How you do this is by getting attention, keeping that attention with useful, valuable and uniquely-you content and resources, and not being afraid to sell to that market (your very survival is at stake).

Be a Farmer’s Weekly in a sea of sameness, position yourself as indispensable to your market, and don’t be afraid to own your market.

Do this, and your business could still be around come 2120.

Need a hand getting your marketing strategy down?

Get in touch with me today. I’ll help you come up with an offer your market can’t refuse, craft an unmissable story and adopt a marketing strategy to get you in front of your market…and stay there.

Leave a Reply