Thursday, March 11, 2010

The State of Trade Publishing: additional thoughts on the market, magazine ad pages, and diversification

I was going to add these thoughts as an addendum to this morning's post about B2B, but thought a new post would work just as well.

This morning I mentioned that a few B2B magazines are showing signs of recovery but that for many magazines not enjoying a dominate market share of the business times will continue to be rough. An important caveat to that would be this: this assumes that the magazine continues to be the largest share of the revenue brought in by the unit.

☜ Magazines supported by trade shows or association, such as Specialty Food which enjoys both, are better positioned to thrive in today's B2B environment.

A magazine supported by a trade show, or with association backing, lives in a different environment than the stand alone book. A magazine such as Specialty Food, owned by the industry's trade association, not only gets financial support from the organization should times get rough, but can ride the coat tails of the trade show (also owned by the association).

What many publishers are hoping for, of course, is that online will become an important source of added support. But rather than treat online like a separate but related unit, they are going online on-the-cheap. An example, a company that plans to launch a major trade show usually creates a new division, or at the very least, brings in an events manager.  But many small or mid-sized B2B publishers rarely bring in help to manage or sell their online properties, instead loading the duties on to their editors and asking their reps to sell the online inventory.

As this story about today's Bloomberg BusinessWeek 2010 Media Summit points out, everyone is looking for additional revenue streams. "Online is a big growth area for us, mobile has enormous growth potential and domestic US cable is actually a growth area,"said Jon Klein, president of CNN, according to the story. "We're in a lot of places and I think that's the model that can be very successful for us," Klein said.

That's all well and good, though, if you are investing in the areas you expect will help your brand. CNN, for instance, invested in the news aggregating vendor Outside.In, a sign of how serious they are in the space.

This is the kind of behavior I would expect from serious B2B publishers, as well: invest in the future by staffing online and mobile media divisions. It is the only way to guarantee that the properties not currently dominating their markets may survive an environment where the total number of ad pages dedicated to trade publications is steady or declining.