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Powerboat Magazine’s Smaller Size and Reduced Frequency—What’s Up?

As editor at large for Powerboat magazine and a contributor to the magazine since 1994, I’ve received a few calls from readers who received the latest issue and noticed that it hasn’t just gotten thinner—it’s gotten smaller, meaning reduced height and width. Yes, Powerboat has gone to a smaller format and what’s more, according to Powerboat’s editor, Gregg Mansfield, will print eight issues rather than 10 this year.

So what’s the story? Simple: The recession has had a huge impact on the high-performance marine industry and the magazines that cover it. Advertising is down—some of the biggest names in performance-boat manufacturing no longer exist in a meaningful way—and much as all marine titles appreciate their loyal subscribers, all rely heavily on advertisers to pay the bulk of the bills.

In the past two years, Extreme Boats magazine and Hot Boat magazine, a popular title that was published for decades, have gone out of business. Across the board in high-performance boating magazines, and many mainstream boating magazines as well, publishers are cutting page counts, reducing frequency and trimming publication size—all in the effort to cut costs and survive.

“These changes are necessary and will keep us from suffering the same fate as many other marine titles that have stopped publishing altogether,” Mansfield wrote in his March/April 2010 issue Editor’s Report. “We don’t take glee in their demise—instead it’s a reminder of how the business has changed.”

I know Mansfield personally—he’s a loyal friend and a trusted colleague—and I can tell you unequivocally that he agonized over these changes. And from what I understand, the changes aren’t necessarily permanent. If and when the market changes, they will be reviewed.

After 15 years, I’ve heard every conceivable complaint—from valid to absurd—about Powerboat magazine. But it’s still a strong title from where I sit, and it’s just doing what it needs to survive.