Why Bodybuilding Print Magazines Are Dead

by Matt Weik

I remember the days when I would wait impatiently for my magazine subscriptions to show up in the mail. It was similar to a kid on Christmas morning waiting to open presents and his parents were taking too long to get ready and come downstairs. I had subscriptions to Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, FLEX, Muscular Development, and Muscle & Fitness. Every free second I had was spent reading one of the magazines I got in the mail. Then the whole cycle would repeat itself the following month. I simply couldn’t get my hands on enough fitness and bodybuilding magazines. Then, just like the dinosaurs, they’re all but extinct.

Look at the magazines that are still in existence today. They are basically a brochure full of ads and no content. Why? Well, let’s discuss some of the many reasons why print magazine companies have closed up shop.

1. Fish where the fish are

For starters, bookstores are dead. We had bookstores all over the place years ago. There would be a few in local malls, you’d have places like Borders and Barnes & Noble. Then they all slowly started closing. Barnes & Noble is the only remaining bookstore in the area of Pennsylvania that I live. People aren’t going into bookstores anymore – they’re shopping online.

With fewer people purchasing books and magazines, the locations that once purchased the issues, either stopped or went out of business. With fewer people buying magazines, print media companies couldn’t make enough money to keep their doors open and continue producing print magazines (which isn’t cheap by any means). Some ended up going to online digital subscriptions only, but even that has slowed down tremendously.

2. Not enough time to sit and read cover to cover

Maybe it’s just me, but with each passing year, I swear we get busier (or some people get lazier). No one “has time” to sit down and read a full magazine. We work long hours, we fit in our workouts, and with whatever free time we have left over we tend to spend it with our families. Heck, even local newspapers are going digital because people aren’t purchasing print issues anymore. You rarely see newspaper kiosks where you drop in your coins, open up the front and grab a paper. That’s saying something when people don’t want to sit down and read a newspaper that talks about things going on in their local area as well as around the world.

3. Everything is online

Welcome to the world of digital. People buy ebooks, audiobooks, digital magazines, music downloads, etc. People aren’t going to the store to purchase hard copies of anything these days. No one wants CDs. No one wants paperback books. They want to be completely mobile with everything.

Society lives off of their smartphones and tablets. They take them everywhere. So, it only makes sense to give the people what they want. You either evolve or you die. It’s not really the fault of print magazines that they died off. Technology has evolved and everything went digital and can be stored on devices without cluttering up your home with a bunch of magazines, books, or CD cases. It’s just a shift in how we all live our lives now.

4. Free versus subscription

We are frugal. We don’t want to spend money on things that we can get for free. Information commonly found in magazines is no exception. We have access to just about every answer to our problems at our fingertips by a simple Google search. We type in our question, hit search, and we’re done. Problem solved.

Most people aren’t interested in paying for something that doesn’t concern them. Let’s be honest, not every page we’ve ever read in a magazine was something we wanted to read or found value in. There are boring interviews, content that doesn’t resonate with us, etc. So, if we can search for our questions for free, is there really a need to pay for a subscription to something that might not completely benefit us and be the best way to spend our hard-earned money?

5. Advertisers don’t value print anymore

It’s called business. You can’t spend money on things that bring you zero in return. That’s a great way to blow through all of your money and go out of business. Why would a company advertise on a platform that won’t produce revenue for them? It just doesn’t make sense. Yes, there are still people spending money in print magazines in our industry, but those magazines are just about dead and gone. They were once well over 100 pages per issue, and they are a fraction of that now – and most of the pages are advertisements and no educational content.

Advertisers are spending their money on digital. They want to be online and all over to websites that are going to produce the most eyeballs. Brands are even advertising on websites that don’t even have anything to do with bodybuilding or fitness, yet it is still a better investment than spending it in print. Digital is also much less expensive than print ever was. Brands can save a considerable amount of money by making the switch. In addition, with social media, it’s easier now than it’s ever been to get your brand and message out in front of a broad audience either for free or for not much money at all.

6. No one cares about today’s bodybuilders

Let’s be real for a second, bodybuilders today are boring. The athlete who is supposed to be our ambassador (Phil Heath), has the personality of a frog. He’s got thin skin, doesn’t do much to get the sport out in front of anyone, and is pretty much hidden throughout the year when he could be out in front of his fans and creating buzz around bodybuilding.

There are not even any friendly rivalries anymore. There’s zero excitement surrounding this generation of bodybuilders. In fact, the more I watch what goes on in the industry, the less interested I am in any competitor. Phil has turned into a bust since he’s got no personality. Bonac who is an up and coming competitor lost his cool on a YouTuber at an overseas expo. It’s as if the industry is turning into a complete shit-show. I can’t blame Kai Greene for getting out and doing other things that bring him WAY more money. The only competitor that at least brings some excitement today is Cedric. But, with his dismal finish at each Mr. Olympia contest, most people end up forgetting about him until he comes into a smaller show and wins (or does a funny interview).

Bodybuilders social media platforms suck too. You can only look at so many images of dudes lifting weights before you toss your phone out the window. Oh, and let’s not forget the posts of them showing the food that they’re eating – as if that’s supposed to be entertaining. I’m putting today’s bodybuilders on snooze alert. Someone needs to check their pulse and see if they’re alive. Entertain us for once.

7. You really can’t say much about bodybuilding in a magazine

Other than talking about a specific bodybuilder’s workouts and nutrition plans, what else is there to really say? Their lives are all over social media, so putting it in an article about how one of them lives wouldn’t be exciting (nor would someone want to pay to read such an article). So honestly, what else is there to say?

Consumers are getting smarter and know that the product and supplement pushes they see bodybuilders make are only because they are financially getting compensated to talk about them. And no one believes anymore that a certain protein powder or creatine used by a competitor is the reason why they are so jacked. Also, no one really cares about many of the smaller contests and shows that are throughout the year with some of the unknown bodybuilders who are trying to make a name for themselves. Majority of the audience in our industry focus solely on the Arnold and the Olympia so they can see guys like Phil, Big Ramy, Roelly, and Rhoden. Sure, people might pay attention to the New York Pro and a few others, but that’s really it.

Without a lot going on in our industry (from a positivity standpoint), there’s nothing to put in a bodybuilding magazine that can’t be put online for free. And we can’t forget to bring up the fact that one of the largest bodybuilding magazines out there still in existence is functioning off of a skeleton crew and isn’t paying their staff because they are too focused on the past with print and can’t see the future is in digital. Their print magazine is 90% ads and 10% content that no one cares about. Bodybuilding magazines are dead – we just all need to realize it and accept that fact. There’s no going back to the good old days.