Saturday, March 28, 2009

From mags to rags: Can another fitba title survive?

Journalists gather for a union rally
So the Daily Record and Sunday Mail staff are to walk out. How shall we cope if we are robbed of the wit and wisdom of James Traynor? God knows.

Interestingly this story comes after the indefatigable All Media Scotland website reported that a new magazine dedicated to Scottish football is to launch in time for next season.

Of all the years to launch a magazine. We have had many a football mag over the year but none have thrived even if some have at least survived for a reasonable amount of time.

But ultimately none could prosper at a time when the newspaper and magazine industries were enjoying some good times. The outlook is grimmer now. Newspapers in their current form are unsustainable. It seems increasingly unlikely that Scotland can sustain two "quality" daily papers while our national tabloid has proved unable to fight off a London backed rival.

And magazines are shutting down all over the place, including titles with a much larger and less tribal audience than any Scottish football magazine is going to need to track. It wasn't too long ago that I heard a media professor claim that only wedding magazines had a sustainable future. And that was before the credit crunch.

Will football fans even feel like they need a magazine? Clubs already produce their own versions and the internet means a plethora of news, views and gossip is available at the simple click of a Google search.

Is there any hope? Easier and cheaper production means that production and distribution is cheaper and can be managed by fewer staff. And any Scottish magazine is necessarily a micro endeavour which might just manage to glide along under the prevailing media climate - we do, after all, support a rather glossy golfing affair.

So it can be done. The marketing has to be clever and cheap, access to the clubs and the players must be guaranteed and the website must be an integral part of the setup rather than a tacked on afterthought.

It won't be easy but it will be interesting to watch.