Harris Publications shutting down

cover-combat-handguns

This came as quite a shock to me yesterday. Harris Publications, the publisher of gun magazines like Combat Handguns, Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement, Guns of the Old West, and a considerable volume of annual publications. In the interest of full disclosure, I have written for Harris a considerable amount in the past, and count many of their staff on the firearms publication among my friends.

Mind you, Harris didn’t only publish firearms magazines. They were a giant, with titles ranging from the aforementioned Combat Handguns to Guitar World and Rides. This honestly can’t be laid at the feet of the firearms publishing industry. Here’s the full statement from the CEO:

It is with great sadness that we are announcing the closing of Harris Publications. For nearly 40 years, Harris Publications has been a mainstay in enthusiast publishing.

We are extremely grateful for the tremendous contributions of our employees, past and present. The hard work and dedication of our creative, sales, circulation and operations teams and the talents of our freelance editors, writers, photographers and designers are what allowed us to continue delivering thoughtful and beautiful magazines to our readers.

The magazine publishing industry has been through turmoil in the face of the rapid ascendance of digital media, changing consumer content preferences, magazine wholesaler struggles and consolidation in the supply chain. We have tried mightily to persevere against these forces, but have been unable to overcome these challenges.

It’s no secret the print publishing industry across the board has been hard hit lately. Subscriptions are down, newsstand sales are down, and as I well know it costs a fortune to produce a quality magazine. Sadly, I can’t say I’m too surprised by this, because as the publishing industry changes, it’s become even more competitive – adapt or die. Print magazines have to compete directly with digital media for ad dollars these days. When an ad buyer sits down to figure out where they’re going to spend their cash, it’s a lot easier to see the direct ROI off a digital ad than it is a print ad.

The way people consume content is changing as well. I keep thinking blogs will die off sooner or later, but at least in the gun space there is a demand for article length content; it’s just that people want to be able to read it on their iPhone while they’re supposed to be working.

I could go on at length about the changes to the firearms publishing world, just in the short time I’ve been in it. But instead, I think I’ll just pour one out for my homies. I liked Combat Handguns, I enjoyed writing for Harris, and I’m sad to see their books go. For giggles, you can check out a small collection of the articles I wrote for Harris at this link.

9 thoughts on “Harris Publications shutting down”

  1. re: It’s no secret the print publishing industry across the board has been hard hit lately.

    Not just lately. I used to subscribe to the more credible audio magazines, and they all folded their tents 20 years ago. The only thing that is shocking about this is how long the dead tree gun mags lasted subsequent to Al Gore inventing the internet (yep, it’s all Al’s fault ☺). I daresay that most print pubs still around are running largely on subscriber inertia.

    Print pubs have now almost nothing to offer vs. web (depending on viewing device), and they have a long list of limitations. The bathroom reader, barber/doctor’s office and airport traveler markets aren’t big enough to support the effort and expense.

    Specialized web sites (and blogs) often decry the difficulty in getting people to pay for content (subscribe), but my recollection is that for most print pubs, the subscription funds basically only covered the overhead and expense of doing print. The marginal revenue was all from ads. If so, web publishing is no different: the ads are still there; the print expense is not.

    It is possible to get people to pay for web content, but it takes a compelling value proposition.

    1. That’s a fact. In very few cases are subscriber/newsstand sales the driving revenue factor. It’s pretty much all ads.

  2. I saw this yesterday and said, “damn it”, Now you tell me they also publish Guitar World. Double Damn It.

    Do you have any insight to the futures of their individual magazine’s websites? Guitar World, as an example, has a ton of lessons directed at hacks like me.

    1. No idea at all to be honest. I heard they’re keeping Tactical-Life.Com up and running, perhaps they’ll do something similar for their other enthusiast websites.

  3. Trust me, it was MORE of a shock to me, I have 8 PO’s here for work, I had already delivered two of them and we did a shoot here in the studio for a new Magazine they were going to publish on Wednesday!!

    But this is a strange case of Deja-Vu for me, not the first mag that goes under and won’t be the last…

    I’ve been in the Magazine industry now for 31 years, been there, done that, got the T-Shirt!!

  4. This is just as bad as when American Photo (Old American Photographer until 1990) went under last year!!

    I have EVERY issue since August of 1978, this was my favorite Magazine and it went Bye-Bye!!

  5. I worked thirty-nine years as a newspaper photographer. Managed to retire. The very same forces impact your local daily paper. I saw many friends get laid off, or leave for another vocation (LEO, aircraft mechanic, lawyer). As Yamil said: “deja vu, been there, done that”.

  6. “Combat Handguns” was the ONLY gun magazine that I ALWAYS bought.

    Despite smug comments to the contrary, NO website can replace a book OR magazine, and I visit a LOT of websites, from the S&W Forums to Small Arms of the World.

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