When will B2B magazines become fully immersed in the issues confronting the rest of the media?

What evidence is there that the structural changes bringing about rapid change to US media is mirrored in the UK? And where do B2B magazines figure in this revolution? Are they, in some way, immune?

The changes evident in the US are:-

  • major financial problems for both big city and local papers with the prediction of one major city title closing before the end of the year. Jobs have already gone
  • the sudden prominence given to online over paper, with the launch of streaming videos often presented by traditional journalists and featuring material created by former readers such as Ledger Live
  • explosion of small, start up websites, like Baristanet , covering hyper local news competing with the websites of traditional, local papers
  • The changes have, inevitably, upset an enormous number of journalists and created a whole new language of anger, as blogger Jessica DaSilva so often discovers
The situation is so advanced in the US that the post-revolutionary landscape has already been envisioned. Read this remarkable posting by Mark Potts entitled “What Will Happen When the Presses Go Silent?”.

 What is happening in the UK?

  • National newspapers have seen their share price collapse on fears that  advertising revenues are declining without increases in digital revenue making up the difference 
  • Press Gazette, the B2B magazine for journalists, stops printing as a weekly and reappears as a monthly putting all effort into its online offering
  • Earlier this week, Trinity Mirror announced that it is to integrate the online and newsroom operations of its Midlands newspapers resulting in a series of journalist job losses. Reporters will become MultiMedia Journalists
  • Obviously journalists are as angry in the UK as the US but just as Jeff Jarvis argues for the inevitability of the new world so Roy Greenslade does the same in the Guardian
  • And, finally, figures today show that men’s magazines are suffering decline of readership. Their demographics – young men – are exactly the group of people who feel most comfortable with the web
What about B2B magazines?
Apart from the Press Gazette, B2B magazines appear to have been left out of the debate. Even the Press Gazette’s problems can be put down to it trying and failing to compete with the Guardian for recruitment revenue than due to structural changes brought about by digital. So are B2B magazines immune?
  • B2B readers are always going to be more loyal than for readers of papers since they are either subscribers or,
  • receive it free through controlled circulation. The size of circulation becomes a matter for publishers not readers
  • The loyalty of most readers is amazing to their B2B magazine – they have read them since they started work
  • B2B readers are likely to belong to a number of demographics – unlike consumer magazines. So, if a younger generation turns to the web for its information, then there will be enough older generations who are unlikely to make the jump
B2B magazines should stop worrying?
Well, no. Only last week, a posting on this blog reported that 44 per cent of the 500 most dynamic and fastest growing companies in the US are now looking at social media to get their message over to their customers. These companies – 500 now but any other successful company later – are both readers and advertisers for B2B magazines. If they are so quickly taking up social media they will expect journalists to reciprocate in the same way. And, as advertisers, they will not just expect it but insist on being given opportunities to advertise in the same medium.
So B2B magazines might well have kept clear of the problems suffered by national and local newspapers and consumer magazines.
They might seem distant from the problems troubling so many businesses in the US. Their readers might well be more loyal. But the rapid speed with which US companies are taking up social media show just how much change is on the way.   
This entry was posted in Business-to-business, New Media, Newspaper business and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to When will B2B magazines become fully immersed in the issues confronting the rest of the media?

  1. illiterato says:

    Working for a B2B publisher, I can tell you from experience that your analysis is largely true of the UK, but is not quite complete.

    Obviously, with controlled circulations, readerships remain stable (because no-one can be bothered to opt out of something that’s free); while those B2B mags with paid subscriptions, like niche consumer titles, are largely recession-proof because the cover price is a worthwhile expense for something that might give you a business edge that you can’t find easily for free online (which FHM’s pictures of nude ladies won’t).

    What is not recession-proof is advertising, even where circulation is guaranteed to remain stable. Many B2B publishers are targeting SMEs for advertising, for whom a £2,500-ish display ad is a fairly significant expense, with no accountability in terms of response. Those seeking return-on-investment as their key metric are erring towards online since every click-through can be seen transparently.

    However, given that the circulations (and therefore margins) are much smaller than national newspapers or conumer mags; the fact that most UK B2B publishers are private limited companies; and the fact that many B2B titles have no direct competitors, there is less pressure on the B2B publishing model.

    Most UK B2B publishers will also have some online presence, but again, they are often competing with no-one (except, perversely, sometimes their own print editions). Mags with the editorial resources to print weeklies are already dominating B2B websites because they can update with daily news and thus attract traffic. Haymarket’s Brand Republic is a good example. Monthly mags like those we publish are usually features-driven and run by small publishers with small editorial staff, so can’t compete on those terms.

    I have a feeling that many larger publishers will start focusing more and more on B2B as they realise the benefits, so the market could change significantly, but also probably slowly.

  2. Paul Conley says:

    I’m not quite sure what it is you’re trying to say. But if you’re suggesting that B2B is further behind the rest of the industry in learning to navigate the changes wrought by Web 2.0 and related issues, you’re wrong.
    And we’re certainly not immune to the pressures of the “structural changes brought about by digital.”
    Here in the U.S., I assure you that B2B editors and publishers talk of little else.
    Just a few weeks ago I was the keynote speaker at the American Society of Business Publication Editors convention. ASBPE is the trade association here in the States for B2B journalists. And I’d say that roughly 75% of the sessions this year were related to mastering B2B publishing in the new era. I’ll be speaking again next month at the Folio Show — the biggest trade show in magazine publishing in the States. And a quick look through the agenda suggests that more than half of the B2B sessions will be about Web 2.0, web-first publishing, mobile, etc.
    It’s also worth noting that B2B here in the States is already far along the road toward Web-only publishing. Some of our best-known print magazines have shut down their print operations and moved to the Web. Others have just shut down. (One of the biggest problems we face in the U.S. is the soaring costs of print production and distribution. Those steady circulation figures you note are a liability when it costs more to send an issue than can be generated in revenue.
    In addition, we have lots of new B2B companies — freed of legacy print issues — competing in this space now. Check out Watershed or BNET or SmartBrief. Even better, check out PaidContent.org. Not only does that site cover the continuing changes in B2B journalism (in the U.S., the UK and India), it also has the distinction of having recently been purchased by the UK’s Guardian.

  3. illiterato says:

    It’s probably worth noting too that there is no real regional/local element to the UK business press, with the exception of a few London-only titles.

    I don’t know the situation in the US, but would I be right to guess that some business mags would be targeted at a fairly local distribution network within clusters of finanacial centres?

  4. John Welsh says:

    Hi Paul and Illiterato
    Just to underline my original posting, I certainly do no think that B2B is immune from the digital revolution. Far from it. But I do think that they are too often left out of the debate. This is simply mad when, at present, B2B magazines are showing more robustness and their owners more interest with investors that newspapers or consumer magazines at the present time.
    I certainly think that the power of social media, of which we are around a year behind in the UK, will make that situation change rapidly since both readers AND advertisers will be communicating with both customers and the media in a different way.
    Thanks for your comments. I have spent two months writing this blog, attracted the attention of some pretty high profile bloggers, but none have focused on B2B. I look forward to Paul’s postings from the Folio Show. Let’s keep this nascent network up.

  5. Harmeek says:

    Hi! This is Harmeek from New Delhi. I work as an Associate Publisher with a B2B company here in this city. I’ve just been through the comments made by Paul and Illitrato. Both have put forward some very good points. I believe that the kind and enormity of problems that may confront a B2B title would depend upon the kind of readership that the title may be addressing. To take an example, if it’s a title meant for small retailers or remodellers, there would be little to disturb the advertising revenues for that title. Titles which talk of stuff like technology will find competition easilty from other sources (like the internet) and thus be prone to the problems faced by the ‘mainline media’ companies. But going back to the basics, if your title, weather mainline or niche, B2B or B2C, defines the audience clearly, I feel that you don’t really need to lose your sleep. Here in India, with the economy growing faster than most others in the world (we still in the midst of a housing boom!), we have had many titles that keep cropping up each minute. Since the readership takes the ‘best of a subset’, the result is that they end up addressing no specific segment, though they loudlly claim so. Such is the situation in some segments that the title and the content look like an oxy-moron. If the readership is not robust, the title is doomed, irrespective of the economic cycle.
    Paul, I would love to hear on your presentation at the Folio Show.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s