Where Have All the RV Magazines Gone?

It is no secret that with print publications under revenue pressure from digital competitors, magazines have been the hardest hit. Sad to say, but printed RV magazines are dead or dying.

It’s no secret that the magazine industry has been in decline for years. With the rise of digital media, magazines have been struggling to keep up. But does that mean that the magazine industry is dead?

Not quite. While magazines may not be as popular as they once were, there are still many people who enjoy reading them. Here’s a look at the current state of the magazine industry—with a focus on RV magazines—and what the future may hold.

Let’s face it, the internet killed magazines (or at least made them seriously ill). The internet has been both a blessing and a curse for the magazine industry. On the one hand, it’s never been easier to get your magazine in front of potential readers. A few clicks and your favorite publication is yours for the reading.

But on the other hand who needs to buy a magazine when you can find everything online for free? After all, why pay for something when you can get it for free? This attitude has led to declining print sales and advertising revenue for magazines.

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Let me give a short history of magazines before I come to the future of magazines. Some accounts hold that in Germany, the first publications that resembled magazines of today came out in 1663 or 1664. Similar experiments were taking place in other countries of Europe as well.

Most of these were specialist magazines focusing on literary issues and aimed for a select, highly educated audience. There were of course some periodicals that also focused on the entertaining, the frivolous, and other stuff.

However, the term magazine would not be used until a publication calling itself the Gentleman’s Magazine started printing in 1731 in England. The early magazines were meant only for the wealthy—the cost of publishing them made them unaffordable to others. Later, as technology evolved, costs came down, and magazines reached the middle class. Advertising revenues played a big role in making magazines less expensive for buyers.

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It was in the 19th century that magazines actually came into their own because of falling costs and better mass production and distribution. In the U.S. particularly, magazines started flourishing the magazine empires were created. The magazines ranged from pure fluffy entertainment and gossip publications talking about celebrities to serious scientific periodicals as well as business and general news publications.

The problems for magazines started when readers and advertisers moved online. Most magazines reacted by cutting costs, shrinking pages, and employing fewer journalists and also reducing their print orders.

Most of them also created websites but too many followed the lead of newspapers, trying to focus on breaking news in their websites instead of the kind of depth or original content that were actually the strength of magazines. Some of the websites also tried to become aggregators of news. Some tried to come up with listicles that could go viral while others tried catchy videos.

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Where have all the RV magazines gone?

Remember the days when printed magazines filled your mailbox? Those thick, colorful publications arrived daily—some wanted, some not. Have you noticed recently most printed magazines have gone away, one by one, and the survivors have become pretty skinny. 

Trailer Life Magazine, Motor Home Magazine, and RV Lifestyle Magazine are gone. Family RVing Magazine from FMCA went from monthly to bi-monthly recently due to declining membership and advertising revenue. And a dozen popular regional magazines long ago published their last issues.

As a writer for CSA News (Canadian Snowbird Association) and a former contributor to Newmar Kountry Klub Legacy and Good Sam, I understand firsthand why it has now gone digital-only and will soon give way to other shorter targeted messaging. It’s not that the publishers lost interest, it’s because things changed.

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We’ve changed

Digitization changed how we get our information, how long we spend absorbing it, and when we want it. Just like the trends that sealed the fate of newspapers, we don’t sit around the breakfast table or on the porch casually perusing pages of text. We want instant digital media with links to follow if something is interesting.

We want to receive it on our phone, tablet, or laptop. Because of that, readership of most surviving magazines is declining. The economics of printing and mailing changed; the huge machines capable of making coated magazine stock have declined over time and their paper now allotted first to premier long-term publications such as Smithsonian, Time, and National Geographic, to name a few.

The prices of paper for short run RV publications have doubled and tripled. The cost of commercial bulk and periodicals mail has also increased. Advertisers have more economical digital options that deliver their messages to more targeted media.

Online resources compete: RVers get information, reviews, and learn of resources online including blogs, forums, phone apps, social media groups, and websites like RVingwithrex.com.

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We got older

RVer demographics are changing and as time goes by younger RVers have less interest in traditional print publications. And, of course, RVers don’t have mailboxes meaning that as more and more people travel full time and work remotely printed magazines no longer easily reach them.

Magazine publishing becomes a losing proposition when you have declining readership, higher production costs, and fewer advertisers willing to pay for decreasing exposure. There are a few printed magazines bucking the trend now and will be for a while but going forward you’ll need to keep your batteries charged if you want to stay informed on RV life and travel.

Worth Pondering…

Every human has four endowments—self awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.

—Stephen Covey