John Romano details how the internet killed bodybuilding magazines and exclusive athlete contracts… and why that might not be a bad thing.

There was a time when magazines were king. Print media was booming and the world across various interests looked forward to an issue of their favorite magazine every month. This held true for bodybuilding as well. During the Weider years, bodybuilding magazines were the number one way for fans across the country to feel united, get updates on athletes, and find out results about competitions. Then came the internet. It essentially killed any value print media had – and it particularly hurt the bodybuilding print media industry. In our latest GI Exclusive interview, former senior editor of Muscular Development John Romano gives an inside look at the demise of bodybuilding magazines.

John Romano worked at Muscular Development magazine for quite some time – and left just at the beginning of the storm that was about to come. The internet was on the rise and it was becoming more popular and more viable as a way to obtain information. For advertisers, that meant the web was the smarter place to buy ad space and get the best conversions. Of course, this led to the slow and painful demise of print media. The bodybuidling magazine world hasn’t been the same ever since.

During our conversation with John Romano, we asked him what it was like working behind the scenes as this wave of change was coming. Was it clear to MD and to John himself that something big had to change in order to survive?

According to Romano, yes they saw it coming. But the real question was how to adjust and adapt in time to prevent permanent damage to the brand. Romano also reveals that the final nail in the coffin was in how advertising reporting could be so much more accurate on the internet. Magazine statistics were always fudged – mostly because you can never guarantee how many people were actually reading the magazines once they were shipped out.

“With publishing you can really fudge your numbers,” John Romano states in our interview. “Blechman used to say we have 124,000 copies in circulation. Well that just meant there was 124,000 copies of the magazine somewhere on the truck between a printer and a 7/11. It didn’t mean 124,000 people were reading the magazine.”

He goes on to detail how web reporting was accurate and exact. You can know how many people saw an ad, how many people clicked on it, and track how many of those people actually bought something. Add on top of that that in the beginning web ads were cheaper than magazine placements… and you have a perfect storm of advertisers jumping ship from print to digital.

But the key thing here is – John Romano thinks that all of this change isn’t a bad thing. It’s certainly bad for magazine companies that couldn’t adapt. But for the athletes and the sport, digital has been a great evolution for the sport.

Romano goes on to discuss how exclusivity contracts for athletes with magazines limited the reach and exposure of who can learn about the sport. Now that digital and social media allows for athletes to be seen anywhere and anytime – the sport can grow at much faster rate.

You can watch John Romano go into detail on our latest GI Exclusive interview segment above.



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