American Medical Association Shutters News Magazine

The print and online news publication of the American Medical Association is closing its doors due to declining ad revenue and an unsustainable business model.

After 55 years, American Medical News, the semimonthly news source of the American Medical Association, is ceasing publication this fall.

Citing declining ad revenues and competition from other digital platforms, AMA announced this week it will stop publishing the Chicago-based AM News, which has a circulation of roughly 208,000, according to BPA Worldwide, and is also published online.

The challenge that we faced with transitioning to a digital model is that 90 percent of our revenue is coming from print.

“Over the last 10 years AM News has been unable to generate an operating surplus,” Thomas J. Easley, senior vice president and publisher, periodic publications, said in a statement. “We’ve analyzed the situation exhaustively and do not foresee the trend improving. Despite the editorial excellence AM News consistently provides, it is not immune to the changes in the market, and we reached a point where we cannot continue down a path that is not sustainable from a business perspective.”

Easley told Folio magazine that the AM News business model, which relied predominantly on print advertising, was problematic.

“The other products in our portfolio have a healthier blend between print and digital on the advertising side,” Easley said. “And more importantly, JAMA [the Journal of the American Medical Association] and the JAMA Network have subscriptions and site licensing.”

According to AMA’s 2012 Annual Report [PDF], the association’s publishing revenue dropped last year by $9.4 million, which it attributes primarily to an $8.7 million decline in print advertising revenue.

Easley said one reason for revenue decline is the recent “patent cliff,” or the potential for sharply reduced revenues in the pharmaceutical industry—one of the news magazine’s primary sources of advertising—stemming from patent expirations.

In terms of changing the business model, Easley said AMA had already reduced the number of print issues from 50 to 24 in 2009 and thought to do so again would erode the product’s value. And expanding digitally was a bit of a catch-22.

“The challenge that we faced with transitioning to a digital model is that 90 percent of our revenue is coming from print,” Easley said. “If we’d gone with the digital model, we would have cut all those costs associated with producing a print product but also would have lost all of the print revenues and we still would have had the challenge of covering the editorial expense associated with putting out such a high-caliber journalistic product.”

To continue delivering news to physicians, the association said it will augment current in-house communication products. Coincidentally, AMA’s marketing department is in the process of repositioning and strengthening two of its alert, or digital news, systems—AMA Morning Rounds and AMA Wire—Easley said.

The decision to close the publication affects 20 full-time employees located in Chicago, Washington, DC, and New Jersey, according to AMA.

Both American Medical News' print and digital editions will shutter on September 9. ( screenshot)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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