In mid-March, Il Giornale dell’Architettura, a broadsheet newspaper that had served the Italian architecture community for over a decade, announced it was abandoning its print edition to become an online news source only. Though Italy has one of the world’s most vibrant design cultures, its principle language is spoken by few north of the Alps and this has always marginalized its media outlets. In January, Abitare, the legendary Italian architecture magazine founded in 1961, ceased publishing its monthly print edition and the few remaining Italian print magazines, like Domus and Casabella, may not be far behind. The luxurious four-color format of these Italian publications made them expensive to produce, distribute, and, therefore, sell; and when images and news are increasingly being quickly displayed online, and a poor economic climate reigns in Italy, even these historic magazines may be impossible to maintain. Domus, in fact, has long been subsidized by its owner and publisher, whose principle income is derived from its popular automotive magazines.
The Unites States may soon be joining Italy as a country with few or no architecture and design magazines. Last week the gracious, founding publisher of Metropolis magazine, Horace Havemeyer, died (see our obit by Jayne Merkel) just after he had passed his publishing duties on to the periodical’s long-time editor, Susan Szenasy. Havemeyer leaves a family, including his wife Eugenia Cowan, and they may decide to keep the magazine running, but it is fair to wonder how long that publication can continue without his financial wherewithal.
Metropolis is not the only American architecture magazine making news. On March 18, The Wall Street Journal reported that McGraw Hill Financial is exploring “options for (its) construction data unit,” which includes Architectural Record, ENR, SNAP, and Sweets online. The Journal reported that this highly profitable corporation will “explore a potential sale or find a partnership with another company for its construction titles.” Further, the current president of the construction division, Keith Fox, announced via a press release on March 26 that he is leaving McGraw Hill to become chief executive officer of Phaidon Press.
It is entirely possible that these construction titles will find a supportive buyer, but the signs are ominous considering that print advertising is becoming evermore competitive with online formats and Hanley Wood Media’s magazine Architect is now the official journal of the AIA, as opposed to Record. Thus, even in this country, with its multi-trillion dollar architecture and construction business, the marketplace may not be able, or have the will, to support such a number of print design magazines.