Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Former RBI magazines struggle to produce modern websites five months after being given death sentence

It's been a tough road back for the 23 magazines that Reed Business Information announced would be closed back in April of this year. Five months after the original announcement, while some of the titles remain closed, the others have been resurrected, but appear to be struggling to develop a solid web presence.

The titles being produced by CFE Media, the new media company being run by Jim Langhenry and Steve Rourke, have new working sites for their three titles: Control Engineering, Consulting-Specifying Engineer and Plant Engineering. The sites are up and running and have a modern web look.

← New website for HOTELS opts for a mid-90's look.

In contrast, the website launched by Marketing & Technology Group, the new owners of HOTELS, looks like it would have fit right into the mid-nineties school of web design. Presumably this is more a placeholder than a real functioning website.

The construction group made up of Construction Equipment, Building Design+Construction, Construction Bulletin, Professional Remodeler, Professional BuilderCustomer Builder have new websites, as well, though they no longer function as news sites but serve as teases for the print magazines which promise to make their reappearances this month. Based on the Facebook page for Construction Equipment, it looks like the publishers are still building their staffs. In fact, it looks like the editors are using Facebook to repost press releases rather than the new websites.

The old RBI titles are at a disadvantage getting back on their feet -- the old web strategy deployed at the giant B2B media firm was simply inadequate. Dependent on posting press releases, without any mobile strategy, the reborn titles will need to start from scratch.
It will be a tough road back, but CFE Media seems further along than the others. The new websites show that they have been able to produce two print editions of each of their three titles since the RBI announcement (they have Olive Software produced flipbooks online).

The BPA website shows that all but one of the old RBI titles have "Ceased" -- presumably this means that with the exception of HOTELS, none of the titles have reapplied for BPA membership. (The HOTELS listing in the BPA website shows "Filed" under "Current Statement Report Date/Status".)

It has been a tough decade for trade publishing, in general -- and starting up a previously closed title is hard enough under the best of circumstances. But I would have hoped that at least some of the titles would have pursued a web-first (or mobile/tablet first) approach, but none appear eager to go down that road -- at least for now.

Update: Sorry, forgot the usual disclosure. Yes, I've worked for several of the companies mentioned either directly or indirectly here. The B2B media world is pretty small.