Time Inc. to close Southern Accents magazine

On Thursday, Time Inc. (TWX) announced that it is closing Southern Accents magazine, a lifestyle periodical that it has published six times per year since 1985. While the final issue will run in September, the magazine's online component, SouthernAccents.com, will continue to operate. It is unclear how many of the magazine's 20 employees will be retained.

While not as well known as fellow Time publication Southern Living, Southern Accents had a circulation of 400,000. However, in the last six months, its advertising revenue dropped by over 37 percent, to an anemic 176.5 pages. These plunging numbers represent a company-wide trend; in Fall 2008, Time shuttered Cottage Living and, in January, it put the Southern Living at Home direct sales segment up for sale.
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While Time seems to be souring on its Southern titles, it is worth noting that this is only a small part of a much larger trend. From BlendertoTrader Monthly to Playboy, lifestyle magazines have been taking a hit lately, as large publishers have increasingly questioned the value of reaching niche audiences, at least in print. (DailyFinance's Jeff Bercovici addressed the difficulties faced by print media in his recent Media Brain Trust piece.)

On some level, the movement of content to the internet makes sense: after all, with readers increasingly moving to the internet, it is worth asking why, exactly, a company would want to spend large sums of money on print ads. On the other hand, however, one could argue that media companies -- Time in particular -- are applying a one-size-fits-all approach to their lifestyle mags.

While magazines like Blender and Trader Monthly appeal to web-savvy readers who will easily make the transition to online content, many members of Southern Accents' core audience may be less likely to follow this move. Given the magazine's focus on "gracious living," antiquing, and elegant entertaining, it seems that it probably doesn't hit the same fused-to-the-laptop mentality that characterizes much of the younger demographic.

As Time -- and its advertisers -- drain much of the bathwater out of the periodical trade, it seems likely that they will find themselves flushing a few babies as well. If Southern Accent is any indication, it might be a good time to take a step back and consider the value of retrenchment, as opposed to wholesale closure.
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