The State of the Scrapbooking Union

by Lain Ehmann on May 10, 2012

By now you’ve probably heard the news. Scrapbooks Etc. will be ceasing publication with its August issue.

On the SBE blog, editor Michelle Rubin said, “Due to the longer term business forecast for the franchise and the industry, the corporation has chosen to cease publishing within this marketplace.”

I’m of course saddened to see the demise of yet another scrapbook magazine (RIP Simple and Scrapbook Answers, to name two). But with with some 350,000 subscribers and newsstand readers, you have to ask, “WTH?”

After all, it’s not like people aren’t scrapbooking anymore. It’s not like people aren’t taking pictures and making photo books and digital albums and hybrid pages and traditional scrapbook layouts.

As Lynnette said on my Facebook wall, “Hey Lain…would you say the long-term forecast for scrapbooking is unstable? To me it seems stronger than ever. Magazines can fold…paper companies may go out…but nobody’s stopping me from scrapping MY memories!”

I agree! So what gives?

Here’s my take on the matter.

The success or failure of scrapbooking magazines has almost nothing to do with the strength of the industry.

What it DOES have to do with is the viability of traditional magazine publishing.

Magazines have traditionally relied heavily on advertising to pay their operating costs. The cover price and subscription price account for a fraction of the average cost per issue to produce and distribute:

Image from CyberCollege

As this lovely graph shows us, if a magazine “makes” $1 million a year (just in round numbers), less than half of that comes from subscriptions and newsstand sales; the rest (about $550,000, I’d say) comes from advertising.

But what happens when those advertisers realize they can get better return on their advertising dollars by sponsoring posts on blogs, advertising in the sidebar of leading blogs in the industry, running their own social media campaigns, or advertising via online ad networks or on Google, Facebook, or Twitter?

Let’s find out.

According to Gaebler, a full-page, black-and-white ad in SBE runs about $22,676. (Note: When’s the last time you saw a black and white full-page ad in a scrapbooking mag? Chances are, color would bump that cost significantly, but let’s go with $22,000 just for giggles.)

Let’s take a for-instance: Betty’s Bodacious Baubles (entirely made-up name!) wants to sell more baubles. So she takes out a full-page ad for $22,000 in SBE, thinking 350,000 people will suddenly be rushing to the local scrapbook store to look for her beautiful, bodacious baubles.

But it doesn’t quite work that way.

Of the circulation of 350,000, not everyone will see the ad. Let’s say half actually pick up their magazine and read it and are then potentially exposed to the ad (just because you read the mag doesn’t mean you see the ad). That’s 175,000 people.

In fact, only a portion of THOSE 175,000 will actually notice the ad and recall it later. According to Marketing Charts, recall rates for magazines is an unremarkable 9%! In other words, of 100 people exposed to an ad, only 9 will be able to recall it later. Eek.

Poor Betty. Instead of having 350,000 exposed to her baubles, she’s down to 15,750.

Of THOSE 15,750 people, only a percentage will remember Betty or her baubles the next time they head to the scrapbook store. And only a small percentage will change their buying behavior because they saw the ad. (Put it this way — did you want a Silhouette Cameo because you saw it advertised in SBE or CK, or did you want one because you read about it on a forum or saw a Youtube video?).

But let’s say Betty’s ad performs VERY well, and 5% of the people who actually recall it decide to go online or to their local scrapbook store in search of baubles. That’s about 788 people directly influenced by the ad. Will they actually buy? Who knows? Shopping cart abandonment rates for online merchants are estimated to be as high as 72% this year, according to SeeWhy.com (you’re guilty of this too — shopping merrily away online and then deciding not to order when you see the grand total or the shipping rates!). And even if people do head to the store in search of bodacious baubles, they may get distracted by other items, or decide they don’t like how they look in person, or that the price is just too high, as bodacious as those baubles are.

But let’s be generous and say that of the people out in search of baubles, half end up buying. That’s about 400 new sales for Betty as a result of her full-page ad in SBE.

Not too shabby, right? For a small manufacturer, 400 sales is a lot… isn’t it?

Not if it comes at a cost of $55 per sale:

$22,000 advertising cost (divided by) 400 sales = $55/sale.

Those numbers might work if you were selling a high-ticket item. But Betty’s baubles (and most scrapbooking items) are low-ticket, sub-$10 in most cases. Betty is going belly up in no time if she’s relying on traditional advertising to bring customers her way.

Contrast this with online advertising. For $50 a month, Betty can advertise on a very targeted blog, or sponsor a scrapbooking podcast, or buy 458 Facebook ads at $.12 a click, specifically targeting the age, gender, country, language, and a host of other demographics. Or Betty could package up a bunch of her baubles and send them to reviewers, or run her own social media campaign for free.

See the problem?

Consumers are becoming more and more fragmented. One size does NOT fit all, and traditional, broad-based magazines cannot survive in a world of specialized blogs, tiny sub-niches, and high printing and distribution costs. As businesses and potential advertisers like Betty go through the numbers above, they see that print advertising isn’t gonna help them pay off the house or send their kids to college or even make payroll for the next month. And they’re going to take their advertising dollars elsewhere.  It has almost nothing to do with the viability of the scrapbooking industry as a whole. 

What we’ll see is the rise of niche “publishers” like Ali Edwards, Jennifer McGuire, Nichol Magouirk, and yeah, even yours truly — people who recognize their little market and serve them very, very well. We will NOT see the “demise” of scrapbooking. If anything, I’d venture that the idea of capturing your story, creating beauty, and connecting with others who do the same will become even more of a soul-level imperative in these uncertain and often unpleasant times.

The oracle has spoken.

simple scrapbooking layouts

P.S. If any manufacturers have some free advertising bucks they want to throw my way, just let me know. 😉

P.P.S. There are other reasons for print advertising, like brand awareness. But branding via print advertising is best left to the big dogs who aren’t looking for immediate ROI on their print advertising dollars. 

Photo courtesy of AMagill on Flickr. 

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