Magazine publishing giants Sanoma is laying off 500 Dutch employees and shunting 2,000 freelancers, as well as considering axing or merging some of their less popular publications, some of which used to be big names in the Dutch weekly scene such as Panorama, Nieuwe Revu, Playboy and Marie Claire.
I thought it would be interesting to see what is happening to the leesmaps, magazine portfolios where for the subscription rate of about a single weekly magazine you get a whole bunch of them. The catch being you only get to keep the magazines for a week, then they move on to the next customer who pays a slightly lesser rate, and so on, until the commercial potential of the folder of magazines is exhausted. Hairdressers and doctors love leesmaps for their waiting rooms.
Does such a concept even exist outside the Netherlands? In a 2011 interview with Volkskrant, Audax founder Jacques de Leeuw claimed he invented the concept as a 17-year-old when delivering magazines that his father imported, placing the introduction of leesmaps in 1950. An unlikely story considering that the Lité Leesmap was already advertising in the 1940s in De Leeuw’s home town of Tilburg.
Leesmaps have been in decline for years. At the height of their popularity there were a million leesmap subscribers in the Netherlands, but in 2007 that number dwindled to 300,000. Still it doesn’t seem the Sanoma cutbacks will mean much of a loss to the leesmaps. To the latter, the magazines that get the axe already formed the dead wood. The question is how symbiotic the relation between the unpopular magazines and the leesmaps was. Weeklies like Panorama and Nieuwe Revu may even have been able to extend their death rattle a little longer because they were still ‘popular’ in the leesmaps.