News Corp.'s (NWS) Dow Jones revealed late last week that the print version of the seemingly popular monthly personal-finance publication will cease to be after the September issue.
SmartMoney isn't dying for a lack of loyal readers. The glossy yet insightful monthly magazine had 813,730 subscribers last year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. That's slightly fewer readers than SmartMoney had four years ago -- and less than half of the subscribers on the rolls of larger rival Money -- but that's still an impressive circulation for a monthly magazine that reaches what should be an ideal audience.
One would expect marketers of big-ticket items and financial services to gravitate to colorful monthly publications for investors, but the publication was suffering through steep declines in ad revenue. Print just isn't as cost-effective as it used to be.
With mailing costs and other print publishing expenses continuing to inch higher, it isn't easy running a magazine these days. Keeping a financial publication afloat is even more challenging, given the time-sensitivity of investing information and the ability of the Internet to immediately deliver breaking or investable news. Publications including SmartMoney have to rely mostly on general personal-finance advice and other evergreen content.
In fact, the company plans to beef up its online editorial staff. Even if six new SmartMoney.com hires won't be enough to offset the roughly two dozen dismissals at SmartMoney, it's at least comforting for fans of the magazine to know that it will live on in a virtual form.
Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
SmartMoney obviously isn't the first financial magazine to stop the presses, and more could be coming. Money may seem to be safe with its roughly 1.9 million subscribers, but what about Kiplinger's Personal Finance, with about 700,000?
It isn't easy being a print publication these days. You'll be missed, SmartMoney.
Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article.