The National Geographic Conundrum
I was stunned to read this headline at the Washington Post:
When I was a teenager, my Grandmother gifted me a subscription to National Geographic Magazine and she had old National Geographics dating back to the 1950's in her basement. During the 80's, I was one of 12 million subscribers to the magazine.
I didn't have the first issue from 1888, but because I had access to over 50 years of old magazines, I definitely noticed a tone. From 1950 to the year 2000, National Geographic was about exploration through science. Whether it be to space, the farthest reaches of our own planet, or down to the molecular level, the theme was consistently expanding the scientific horizons.
Then around the turn of the millennium, there was a subtle change in tone from exploration to advocacy. An advocacy that leaned a certain way politically.
In 2005, these were the most popular websites on the internet:
So if NationalGeographic.com was started in 1996, and after 10 years, the leaders of the magazine saw some websites were getting over a billion views, someone in that leadership office had to say: What is the future of our PRINT magazine?
How do you think that internal board meeting went? Someone in that room would have had to have broached the topic of PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE.
What do I know about planned obsolescence? Let me tell you a short story. I used to work for Iron Mountain and they were the leaders in data management. Back around the year 2000, business was growing at a record rate, many of the World's biggest companies didn't want to deal with all of the boring realms of data management, it was a bulky and time intensive endeavor.
After 9/11, Iron Mountain became richly compensated insurance salesmen, "you have to store your data with us, what if a catastrophic event occurred at your business?" Nearly all account managers echoed that same refrain.
But then Karma caught up with Iron Mountain. Around the year 2010, a new concept called CLOUD STORAGE decimated their data management business line. Why would you, as a business, store your physical data disk with Iron Mountain when you could simply press a button and all your information could be stored in a "Cloud?" I cannot tell you how many of my co-workers wanted to know where this cloud was and how it worked.
I, myself, was downsized in this shrinking business line and I saw it coming. Later this year my former branch will be closing. But here's the ruse, executives saw it coming YEARS before I did. Did they tell the workers what was going on? No. Could we see what was going on? Those who wanted to see it, could see it.
I remember asking my supervisor Steve about the dearth of new customers and a bleeding of an already shrinking customer base. He replied "don't you have some work to do?"
Which returns us back to that National Geographic Board Meeting.
Starting in 2024, National Geographic won't be sold at newsstands and other retailers. This can't be a shock seeing that their subscription numbers are down to around 1.5 million. 20 years ago, someone HAD to say "worst case scenario, we don't exist in print in a generation."
What I want to know is what exactly was the business plan when the internet really started to do damage to the print business? In 2015, National Geographic was bought by 21st Century Fox for $725 million. 2 years later, Disney snatched up the Nat Geo property, only for their editor to quickly apologize for a "racist past."
Since then, Disney has been downsizing National Geographic in every which way possible.
Did an arrogant National Geographic really think that they were too big to fail and Disney tired of shoveling money into a black hole? Again, the National Geographic Property is now just a small branch of the largest media tree in the United States. Technically they are now one of the evil corporations that they used to rail against.
Did National Geographic Go Woke then Went Broke?
Or are they just another dying magazine?
For a subsidiary that has 50 million followers, but follows no one:
I find it hard to believe that they're just happy to be a small expenditure column on a corporate spreadsheet.
Am I the only one who sees the irony that?
Only two magazines currently have the number of subscribers that National Geographic USED to have:
AARP the Magazine
Both magazines are free to members of their respective groups.
Maybe Disney should raise their streaming prices and then give National Geographic Magazine to Disney+ subscribers for "Free." Ugggh, I'm too depressed to keep writing about this topic-