• Alistair Tait

The further death of golf journalism


These are not great times for lovers of print publications. Seems golf fans might have one less magazine to read in the near future with the news that Golf World magazine could soon follow other golf print publications and go to that great publishing graveyard in the sky.

According to the Press Gazette, Bauer Media looks certain to offload, merge or shut 10 magazines as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Golf World is one of that 10, along with Q and Planet Rock, Modern Classics, Car Mechanics, Simply You, Mother and Baby, Practical Photography, Sea Angler and Your Horse.

“The pandemic and lockdown has further accelerated the trends already affecting the publishing industry,” said Chris Duncan, Bauer’s UK publishing chief executive.
“Bauer publishes nearly 100 magazines in the UK, and some titles that were already challenged, unfortunately, are not expected to be sustainable after the crisis.
“We must protect the long-term health of our business and ability to invest in future growth by re-shaping our portfolio.”

That’s publishing speak for “we’re going to get rid of magazines.”


The news comes as no surprise. The age of golf magazines is slowly but surely coming to an end. A casual glance at the latest circulation figures bears that out.


According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Golf World sold an average of just 21,267 issues per month last year, the lowest of the three main UK titles. Today’s Golfer leads the pack with 39,189, Golf Monthly clocks in at 32,882. Scottish magazine Bunkered sells an average of 20,113.


These figures pale in comparison to the halcyon days of the print industry. Golf Monthly sold over 100,000 copies a month when I worked for it back in the 1990s. (Not because of me, I hasten to add.) Ditto for Golf World and Today’s Golfer. However, figures have been falling fast in recent years.


It’s perhaps a surprise Golf World has lasted this long. Fore! magazine shut down back in the noughties when its circulation figures dropped to 45,000. The reality of print and delivery costs is just too much for magazines to bear. Not just in the UK. Golfweek magazine, my previous employer of 25 years, planned to print just seven issues this year. Down from 11 last year. The clue is in the title, folks.


What started out as a weekly print magazine with a unique selling point covering amateur and college golf will probably join Golf World in that great magazine graveyard. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Golfweek print edition disappeared altogether next year.


The excellent Golf World U.S. no longer exists in print. It went all digital a few years ago. Despite working for a rival publication, I mourned its loss. It showcased many great writers who are no longer in the game. Those that remain, along with many great former Golfweek colleagues, have been pushed to the side lines, trying to get their voices heard amidst all the bloody noise. By the way, that goes for the small pool of good golf writers currently covering the game. Sometimes it’s hard to find them amidst all the click bait and drivel posts.


Shame.


The impending death of Golf World is to be mourned. It’s been an excellent UK magazine for 40 years. Some good writers have penned pieces in the publication. Like my former Golfweek colleagues, one by one those good scribes have quietly disappeared, lost to the game as the publishing world struggled to keep up with the internet and the supposed need for click bait for those all-important page views. As I said in a previous piece, why commission a good golf writer to pen a serious, in-depth, entertaining article when you can get 1,000s of page views by getting people with little golf knowledge to recast rubbish?


Give me a Jeff Rude print column, any Jeff Rude column, over a 185-word piece about what Tiger Woods had for breakfast, lunch or supper any day of the week.


Will the last golf magazine print editor please observe a minute’s silence before turning out the lights?

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