By Andrew L. Wang, Crain’s Chicago Business
Posted: August 12, 2013 – 6:45 pm ET
The American Medical Association, the country’s largest professional organization for physicians, is shutting down the news magazine it has published for 55 years.
The publication, which also operates a website at AmedNews.com, has a print circulation of about 230,000 but has had trouble turning a profit over the last decade, amid declining ad revenue from drug companies, increased competition from other news sources and a steady migration of readers to the Internet.
“Over the last 10 years, AM News has been unable to generate an operating surplus. We’ve analyzed the situation exhaustively and do not foresee the trend improving,” said Thomas Easley, the association’s senior vice president and publisher of periodic publications, in a statement. “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.”
AM News will stop publication on Sept. 9, according to the statement. Its website also is shutting down, but the content will be available until the end of the year. The shutdown will affect 20 employees.
Revenue for AM News is about a third what it was a decade ago, Mr. Easley said in an interview. He declined to give specific figures on the publication.
According to the AMA’s latest annual report, publishing brought in $55.8 million in revenue for the organization in 2012, down from $65.2 million a year before. The decrease was due to an $8.7 million tumble in print display advertising, the annual report says.
Even so, publishing revenue, which includes proceeds from AM News and the Journal of the American Medical Association, still accounted for a larger percentage—about 20%—of the association’s total revenue last year, $273.9 million, than membership dues, which, at $38.6 million, made up just 14 percent.
Pharmaceutical advertising accounted for the bulk of revenue for AM News, Mr. Easley said. In addition to having to compete harder for ad dollars, AM News saw revenue slow to a trickle in recent years as several big-selling drugs went off patent and as drugmakers shifted focus to specialty products, rather than more broad-based blockbuster drugs, he added.
The shutdown does not affect JAMA, a research publication.
That publication and its related journals offer content unavailable elsewhere, as opposed to AM News, which occupied an increasingly crowded marketplace of health and medical news.
As such, Mr. Easley said, JAMA is on surer financial footing because most of its revenue comes from institutional subscriptions, with advertising only a secondary revenue source.
Mr. Easley said the AMA will make efforts to keep its membership up to speed on issues affecting their profession through two emails.
AMA Morning Rounds is a daily email that links to news stories from various news organizations, while AMA Wire is a weekly electronic newsletter geared to medical practice.
A subscription to AM News is a benefit of membership in the association. AM News’ print edition is published 24 times a year and focuses on news geared toward physicians, who make up 90% of its circulation. It started publication in 1958.
“AMA to close news magazine” originally appeared in Crain’s Chicago Business.