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 (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. 

  • Ann Johnson

    Great story – I will miss the magazine. I never really looked at ads because I bought the mag for the layout ideas and articles. Unfortunately the internet has caused anything to be printed fail. What I have seen more lately is that since advertising is “cheaper” via the internet, I am constantly bombarded with everything, where as the magazine everything was right there. Instead of getting a magazine that has 100 pages, I am not getting 100 emails, facebook statuses etc.  Emails, newsletters, blogs, facebook, (thank goodness I don’t have twitter) and everything else, as I understand the social media I am tired of getting so much. How do you (everyone in general) keep up with everything. I am so overwhelmed with information that everything gets ignored because everyone has something to sell or say. I can’t imagine being in the business and having to keep up with everything. I need one place to connect with the world, not 100. Thanks for everything. I will miss Scrapbook Etc. ~Ann 

  • Fran

    great explanation, i will miss the magazine though.

  • Lainehmann

    This is a great question. I think I’ll do a future blog post on it! :) Stay tuned…

  • Mary McCarthy

    Thanks for this awesome post, Lain! It was very informative. =)

  • Jersey Girl Anne

    Thanks for the explanation. It all makes better sence now. But it is still very sad!

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    I agree. But change can be good or bad. I thought the closing of Simple was the end of it all. But if Simple hadn’t closed, I never would have started Layout a Day, LOAD, ScrapHappy, etc. 

  • Kristie Sloan

    Lain this was like sitting in on a mini marketing class!  Super information and so very true!  I have to add, YOU serve your market VERY WELL.  Thank you!

  • Lynnette Nagle

    Pretty ironic yesterday…I was going through my snail mail and I had the renewal card for Scrapbooks etc. filled out and ready to be mailed.  Then I saw your facebook post about the magazine folding.  Very strange the way things happen.  I, too, enjoyed Scrapbooks etc, but I have to admit that lately my go-to places for inspiration are personal and manufacturer’s blogs.  Your explanation makes perfect sense and eases my mind that the scrapbooking sky is not falling!   Thank you for the detailed post.

    BTW, it doesn’t even make sense to offer these magazine for iPad or e-readers?  It just seems strange to not a have a hobby related magazine (in some form) to pick up.

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    You have me blushing. :) 

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    I think we’ll see more of that – magazines created SPECIFICALLY for e-readers. Some of the larger mags are testing that now with digital versions. I wouldn’t be surprised if they soon go to digital-only. But that technology requires investment… which smaller mags may not be able to make. It’ll be interesting to watch how it unfolds!

  • Nikwai Noble

    Whoa! I found this very informative.  Thank you for breaking it down for folks like me that just couldn’t get our heads wrapped around magazines going under.  You know how you know there’s a reason, but can’t quite pinpoint it when you’re in desperate need of the item in question? I truly enjoy scrapbook magazines.  I usually buy the copy I want that month, but am sad that the world has changed so much that we can’t get our paper copies any longer.  I end up printing what I want online and keeping it in a binder for later use.  I do understand and like the idea of small business being able to strive by meeting their clients needs better.  However, deep down I really miss the old days.  Again, thanks for the post and great information.

  • guest

    interesting write up.  one correction that may affect your math….our company advertised only full page color ads with SBE, and we paid $4,750 for an ad. 

  • Lainehmann

    I love paper, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more POD (print on demand) mags where the costs of printing are passed on to the reader, and the printing is much higher quality than what we can do at home.

    To be continued!

  • guest

    one more thought.  400 sales is a very very low guess for a manufacturer of sales that might come from such an ad.  while print advertising is not doing as well as it once was, there is still a value in it, but we have to be more careful.

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    I think we’ll see more of that – magazines created SPECIFICALLY for e-readers. Some of the larger mags are testing that now with digital versions. I wouldn’t be surprised if they soon go to digital-only. But that technology requires investment… which smaller mags may not be able to make. It’ll be interesting to watch how it unfolds!

  • Lynn Mercurio

    It does make me a little sad and nostalgic to hear of yet another magazine going down with the ship.  It has to be difficult to continue to publish print magazines – high cost of everything, including postage.  Personally, I have gone to buying digital subscriptions.  While digital copies cost just as much to produce, there has to be a savings for these publishers in postage.  

    I do love my digital copies, but in all honesty, I do miss my in-my-hand magazines.  There is just something familiar about quickly flipping through a magazine quickly for inspiration…and I for one am one of the 400 who see ads and buy! Goodness knows I buy…lol

    Thanks Lain for this thorough and thoughtful perspective on the “state of the union”.

  • Stephanie Medley-Rath

    Thank you for pointing out that SBE shutting down is less about the scrapbooking industry and more about the magazine industry. The truth is that no print advertising model can make claims about how effective it is. There is no tracking mechanism in place showing that seeing an ad in a magazine prompts me to go buy something. I see 100s if not 1000s of ads everyday and I don’t buy most of what I see advertised. (And this includes watching TV on the DVR–avoiding most of the obvious commercials.)

  • DarcyMcNairy

    So sad to hear, but you are right Lain, smaller companies can’t even begin to contemplate the high ad rates in mags.  I think your estimate is a bit high.  Paper Crafts and Creating Keepsakes have rates that are about $5K-$6.5K for full page color 1-time ad.  It’s still too high a cost if you are only really reaching 400 customers.  And we all know that a 1-time ad is not very effective.  Don’t people need to see something at least 7 times before it sticks in their memory?   Specialized website sponsorships and blog reviews are definitely the best ad medium for smaller scrapbook and stamp companies.  I would love to hear you talk more about Facebook and other social media and give us another “marketing lesson” on best practices!  
    Thanks for your post.  Always fun to read!  

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    Hey Darcy! I got the figures from an online search. I tried to find numbers on the SBE site but came up blank so went with that estimate. 

    I have heard that people need to be exposed to something six times before taking action. I might think it’s even higher in our over-saturated culture!

  • Elizabeth

    Great post and I could not agree more.  It’s funny because when I first started reading the quote of why Scrapbooks made this decision I had to reread it!  What?  “The forecast of the franchise and industry”  -  it is looking like a good forecast to me.  Your assessment I believe it more accurate.  Scrapbooking will continue to happen in my home with or without Scrapbooks.  I’m sad and will greatly miss the magazine but I won’t stop creating :)

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    Thanks for reading, Stephanie!

    There are some tracking mechanisms, like having a 1-800 number that’s linked specifically to the ad, or an offer # to mention. (You know, “Mention code XYZ to claim your special!”). Or postcards to mail in with a special box number. But still, I’m with you – it’s tough to track, particularly for smaller companies. 

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    Thanks for commenting. As I mentioned in a response above, I was unable to find rate #s in the SBE media kit so went with the estimate mentioned in the article.

    I still stand by the 400 sales estimate. Those are solid industry-wide rates I used. Remember, they’re not TOTAL sales rates. They’re sales rates linked DIRECTLY to the ad. 

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    I think it’s easier to blame the economy than to explain, “Well, our model didn’t work anymore.”
    In my crystal ball, broader-based magazines (like Sports Illustrated, for instance) will still be able to hang on for a while… 

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    I agree – I like to hold ‘em in my hand, rip out pages, etc. I’ll miss that!

  • Lisainre

    Great explanation Lain! Thanks for the low down. It’s sad but so true. 

    But it’s also true that the way we get our information/inspiration/product awareness has changed SO much over the last few years. I subscribe to CK and get a UK magazine too. But whereas I used to grab it and devour it over the first few days of receiving it, it might now sit untouched, unlooked at and generally unloved for weeks, even until the next one comes through the post. When I do open it up, everything is familiar as I’ve seen it online, on blogs, used by other scrappers. I am finding my scrapbooking industry news and inspiration online or via podcasts (of course yours too but Paperclipping is a prime example) long before CK can hope to fill me in on the latest and greatest. 

    It’s amazing how quickly everything has changed and how quickly we change with it.

    Thanks for a great article!

  • Liz Sawyer

    I ended my CK subscription last year & haven’t missed it at all. I have always thought the best advertising for a product is through an end-user review or sample of it used – would have never thought to use transparencies until Ali did, read a review by a CK alum about pens and you want the pen you know will work even if you have to pay crazy shipping, etc. The only way I switched from CM albums to We R Memory Keepers binders was because of Becky Higgins long ago. I never liked some of a few CK gals’ stuff in the magazine but when I went to their blogs I found more stuff I did like. My reading has changed significantly – I can sit on my iPad to review all sorts of blogs, websites, etc. and open up a note tab to make notes of things I want to find. As I work at my computer, I listen to an audio/video. It’s just much more of true, real-time information even if it’s an old video which is funny. 

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    Do you miss the paper? 

  • Donna Clark

    Lain, I just love the way you tell us what’s up! Entertaining, humorous, and engaging. NO dry writing here! 
    On the topic, however, I am saddened as I do love the feel of a magazine in my hand. Not to mention, if it get’s wet….I haven’t lost $1000, as I would if my iPad got wet! I just wish they’d make it online….I’d subscribe in a heartbeat if the price was right!

  • Susan / PaperCrafter’s Corner

    Great article, Lain!

  • C. G. K.

    Hey Lain, I’m a Marketing person in Canada, and loved your article. You hit the nail on the head – companies are looking for cheaper and more targeted advertising methods all the time. I loved SBE, especially the ads. But I think bloggers like you serve the SB market even better. Keep up the good work!

  • sjohnstone51

    I know I have seriously cut back on magazine purchases.  Why spend those dollars on a magazine when I can go online and find all the info and inspiration I need?

  • Katie Scott

    SO interesting – thanks Lain.

  • Katie Scott

    me too

  • Snapsandsnippets

    Interesting post Lain.  I just finished reading Nancy Nally article on the demise of print publications.  I think you are right – that in this industry right now – seeing or hearing about a product online is more likely to result in a sale.  Maybe one day they will realize that all those annoying random online ads aren’t working; most of us have learned to tune out those Facebook ads (don’t let them know before their IPO is complete, though).  But then sadly they will figure out a more intrusive way to interrupt our online reading so they can trace every single sale to its source.  I find myself being more and more selective of online content that gets too commercial in lieu of substantive information – there needs to be a balance.  Because there may just be something to the theory that the magazines died because they were was too much fluff and not enough substance to survive.

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    So true. There has to be some kind of business structure to support the creation of great content… but there can’t be just commercialization with no content! 

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    THANK YOU! :)

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    SO true – Can’t take it in the bathtub with you, can you? ;)

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    I have STACKS (shh…) of mags that sit unread. I’m trying to get pickier about what I buy but I have to admit, I’m afraid I’ll miss something! It’s almost worse online. So many unread blog posts in my reader… 

  • Liftbridge

    Actually, they do make scrapbooks etc. online. I subscribe on zinio, which can go on an iPad or computer. I was so excited to see the online magazine. Sad to see it go.

  • Hils

    Totally agree.  Most small and medium businesses just don’t have the budgets right now for expensive print advertising.  Even if they did, it’s like you say, it’s far more of a brand awareness exercise than a sales generator.  Many will spend a small fortune advertising once or twice in a publication, have few if any direct responses, and will never, ever try print advertising again.
    Plus the consumers needs/wants are changing.  We are now used to getting information 24/7, as soon as the news breaks.  We can find whatever information or inspiration we want just by searching online – no need to go out, no need to spend hard-earned dollars on books or magazines – it’s there, at our fingertips.  And, of course, we can follow all our fave celebs via their blogs.  Which means that reader numbers are dropping too.  The same is happening throughout the print industry – local newspapers, nationals, magazines – you name it, they are noticing big changes.
    Online is definitely the future – a shame for those of us who still like to drool over gorgeous photos in glossy magazines away from artificial screens, but I guess that’s progress! 

  • Lain Chroust Ehmann

    I think we’ll see print on demand magazines so those of us who still love the glossies will be able to get them! (Or at least I hope so!)

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  • Katrinaforman

     Like Ready-Set-Create? It’s a papercraft magazine in PDF form. I gusee that makes it an ezine?  I love it (course I might be biased being on the Creative Team :))
    I am sad to see Scrapbooks Etc go, But I totally can see why thanks to your post.  Thanks!

  • Katrinaforman

     I do miss Simple & I felt the same way but no LOAD or ScrapHappy?…That really would have been tragic!! 

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  • Iceteeeeee

    Thanks for the informative post. I will really miss SBE, but I guess the writing was on the wall. I so loved having all of the scrapbook magazines in my hands, though.:(

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  • Sue Painter

    Great analysis, thanks.  But I STILL will miss the magazine, and didn’t appreciate how they handled their existing subscribers, either!

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