Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
Let’s start from the beginning: When the Berlin Wall fell, Western media companies (mostly German, Swiss, Dutch …) picked up everything that was worthy of the media in the countries that were then behind the iron curtain. In the region of the former Yugoslavia, because of wars and international sanctions (in the case of Serbia), that transition came about ten years later. WAZ made the first breakthrough in Croatia with the EPH in late 1990s – “Playboy”, “Cosmopolitan” and other licensed magazines were launched.
Foreign publishers came and went
WAZ’s entry into the Serbian market in 2001, after the fall of Milosevic, was far less glamorous. By acquiring 50% share in Politika, and 55% of Dnevnik from Novi Sad, WAZ fell into the abyss of former Socialist conglomerates with many employees and little potential for change and innovation. Ten years later, they left the Serbian market with great scandals, involvement of persons from the other side of the law, and trails that continue to drag on through the unclear ownership structure of Politika and Dnevnik.
The company Burda, which came to the market of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia in 2002 with licensed magazines such as women’s weekly Lisa, left the market in 2006 when they sold all three companies to Adria Media (Dutch Sanoma and German G+J). Adria took over all the licenses that Burda operated, and added to them Elle, Story, National Geographic and some other magazines.
The economic crisis in 2008, coupled with technological changes (smartphones, the Internet), led to a drastic decline in circulation and advertising budgets. In 2013, Adria Media also left the region’s market and sold its companies to Kurir (the company in Belgrade and a larger part of the company in Zagreb), Austrian publisher Styria (a smaller part of the company in Zagreb), and in Slovenia to the former owner, from whom Burda bought the company in 2002.
Our company started with licenses in 2002, in response to Burda’s arrival: we began to release the teenage magazine Bravo and the women’s monthly JOY (both magazines are no longer published), and later the other licensed titles came – Hello!, The Economist, BravaCasa, Grazia (in Croatia and BiH), Hausbau, Alan Ford comic, Star weekly (UK license), Gloria weekly (Croatian license), Hey teenage magazine and many others which are still published.
Greek publisher bankrupted and left behind €350 million debt
In February 2008, half a year before the outbreak of the economic crisis, I was visiting Liberis company in Athens, which was the holder of license rights for the entire Balkans of the huge US publisher Conde Nast (Vogue, Glamour, Vanity Fair …). We were negotiating the future publishing of their magazines in our region. And then the crisis came, and we realized that under the new circumstances, it would be more appropriate to issue the culinary magazine Pošalji recept (Send a Recipe), which reached circulation of 300,000 copies in the best of days. Four years ago, I read that Liberis had bankrupted with €350 million in debt.
In the meantime, we also turned to the East, so now we are successfully publishing the Ruski doctor (Russian Doctor) magazine, under the license of publisher from St. Petersburg. We sell them our content from the segment of food. An important element, of course, is the online, which follows the print releases, but only 10% of the money lost on traditional platforms is returned through the portals. That is why we launched the third media product – conferences and festivals – thus, every magazine brand has a conference or a festival that accompanies it. Lepota i zdravlje – Pro Femina Conference, culinary editions – Food Talk Conference, teens edition – Teen Talk Conference, The Economist – a large annual conference held every December in the Assembly of Serbia …
The segment of male magazines in Serbia has been almost completely erased from the scene. Three years ago we closed our CKM, when it was the most read male magazine in the country (5,000 sold copies), bellow it in readership were both Playboy and Maxim. They also closed later. Playboy, however, survived in Croatia and Slovenia, and the causes should be sought in a more stable advertising scene and higher prices of magazines and ads.
In 2008 the Old World came crumbling down like a house of cards
Twelve years ago, in the New York Hotel Waldorf Astoria, I participated in a major publishing conference when, during one lunch, Jonathan Newhouse, chief executive of Conde Nast, delivered a brilliant presentation titled Branding is Not Enough, featuring examples of dozens licensed magazines which in certain markets simply couldn’t succeed. Newhouse also noted several basic causes that affected some of them being shut down: too small market; heavy competition; poorly selected local partner; concept not sufficiently close to the local market; concept too far removed from the original content of the original magazine … We are talking about the year 2005 – the golden age of magazine and newspaper publishing.
Then, three years later, the economic crisis and the first iPhone came. The Old World came crumbling down like a house of cards.
The future of licenses in the region? It will depend solely on the innovativeness of the remaining publishers, mostly local players (out of 10 foreign companies in the media industry in Serbia, seven of them have left the market), and their readiness to experiment with new magazines and concepts, but also to mercilessly shut down editions that have lost sense both for readers and for advertisers.