Popular magazines are disappearing. Is it because they’re too expensive to produce and distribute?

When compared to the digital models, of course, magazines are easily seen as costly media relics from another century. But the comparison of websites to print is not apples-to-apples. Not by a long stretch. You look through a magazine at your leisure.

And how does your reading behavior change online? Online, things move fast and there are endless distractions demanding your attention right now. Ergo, a website and a printed vehicle are not the same. Not from the reader’s perspective. Be that as it may, Dotdash Meredith has decided to pull the print plug on several of its leading titles, including InStyle and Entertainment Weekly.

“We have said from the beginning, buying Meredith was about buying brands, not magazines or websites,” CEO Neil Vogel reaffirmed. “As such, we are going to move to a digital-only future for these brands, which will help us to unlock their full potential.”

“Today’s step is not a cost-savings exercise,” he continued, “and it’s not about capturing synergies or any other acquisition jargon, it is about embracing the inevitable digital future for the affected brands.”

As of June, most of the magazines ceasing print publication had at least 1 million subscribers:

  • Parents: 2.2 million.
  • EatingWell: 1.8 million.
  • InStyle: 1.7 million.
  • Entertainment Weekly: 1.5 million.
  • Health: 1.4 million.
  • People en Español: 500,000.

According to the Des Moines Register, the move has resulted in 200 layoffs, and is but the first of the changes that Vogel promised after his company, New York-based digital publisher Dotdash, bought Meredith for $2.7 billion.

Dotdash Meredith is now part of billionaire Barry Diller’s publicly traded tech incubator, IAC/Interactive Corp. The company invests heavily in computer analytics to determine what information people are seeking out online. Editors then assign stories that will answer specific questions turned up in the data.

It is obvious but worth stating that Dotdash and Meredith are two companies from two distinct and heretofore separate worlds. One is a new media data-driven tech play. The other is one of the great legacy media companies. It’s natural that the decision-makers in Des Moines and Manhattan would care about different things. Magazine editors care about style and editorial integrity and creating positive experiences for readers. Data freaks care about reach, and about delivering information packets.

How will these differences play out at Dotdash Meredith and what does it mean for advertisers? At this early juncture, it means that the above titles will not be booking print ads any longer. Consequently, ad-makers won’t be making print ads for these titles. Yet, somehow, Vogel and crew are going to now “unlock their full potential.”

What would Entertainment Weekly‘s full potential look like, I wonder? Publishers want more readers and with more readers, the ability to create more income from subscribers and advertisers alike. So, the easy answer is Dotdash Meredith now wants more income and more savings from running a leaner operation.

As with all businesses, the owners’ desires need to match up with their customers’ needs. Is this going to happen here? Will people miss receiving their magazines in the mail and miss reading them? Time will tell.