Wednesday, June 1, 2005

B2B Magazines Reducing Editorial and Ad Pages: Good News?

An interesting column by Tony Silber in FOLIO: Magazine highlights the decline in overall page count for both ads and editorial content in B2B magazines since their most recent peak in 2000, yet cites this as a hidden virtue. Although the "plop" factor of a thick magazine hitting one's desk or briefcase may have lessened, Silber's contention is that overall editorial content output and ad venues have increased significantly thanks to the proliferation of online venues and events that amplify a title's value - and in the process have helped to return B2B mag revenues to 2000 levels in some instances. Certainly factors such as the rising cost of paper noted by FOLIO: and other factors such as increasing postage and labor costs are also contributing to more careful maximization of a print outlet's value, but the key component that seems to be missing from this story is a conscious repositioning of print magazine outlets as specialized products in a much wider media mix.

If print editorial content is now a clear subset of online content, then print magazines need to be repositioned more effectively as specialty products that serve a more focused purpose for both readers and advertisers. This lack of specialized positioning is contributing to the confusion of both readers and advertisers: both are asking themselves, "what makes a thinner magazine more important to me?" It's a question that B2B magazine publishers don't seem to have answered definitively for either audience. From our perspective the answer is to move print magazine outlets to become a far more personally packaged product for elite subscribers, so that advertisers can take advantage of highly focused audiences within their target demographics to maximize the value of their print campaigns. It will mean a different way of packaging ad campaigns, but if your mass media outlets are becoming less massive, then publishers need to acknowledge that the role of specialty product and mass media product are reversing in the electronic era and shift their ad and editorial packaging policies accordingly.
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