In the wake of the sudden closure of Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews magazines, it’s a good time to try and get a handle on just how poorly the U.S. publishing industry is doing.

According to Crain’s New York Business, quoting MediaFinder.com, some 367 U.S periodicals shut down in 2009 and 64 went online-only.

Meanwhile, 247 magazines launched during ’09. Both closures and launches cam primarily in regional publishing titles.

Crain’s notes that as bad as that news is, the pace of decline has slowed. In 2008, 526 U.S. magazines closed, while in ’07, 573 shut down. The pace of launches also is declining, however. In 2008, there were 342 magazine launches in the U.S. In 2007, there were 411.

While this is bad news for the publishing business, it’s equally bad for the public relations business, as we watch the number of potential placements dwindle as outlets decline. Aggressively pursuing digital media and online social networking outlets makes sense as we move into a direct-to-consumer era, where the intermediary layer of the journalist/editor disappears.

The problem with that scenario is one of credibility — one of the founding principles of PR is that, unlike advertising, which is what one says about oneself, public relations is what other people say about you. In the absence of other people, i.e., reporters and editors, to testify, as it were, PR is exposed to the suspicions and mistrust of consumers.

In the D2C era, PR people need transparency more than ever and we need to adapt our old ways (hackneyed press release writing, bombast, etc.) to the needs of an increasingly technologically sophisticated media consumer.

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