Two years ago, in January 2006, I wrote a story saying how legacy print media companies were at a disadvantage in the marketplace as media usage and media buying moved online.
“Across the magazine industry but especially in b-to-b publishing and particularly in technology, print media is facing decline,” I wrote. “All of this adds up to a dilemma for print-media CEOs: Managing ‘legacy’ print media and emerging online media simultaneously. Print media is declining, but makes up the vast majority of magazine-company revenue. E-media is on the rise, and many publishers are aggressively involved, but they’re at a disadvantage because of their imperative to protect what is still their largest revenue-producer.”
Many at the time claimed, as they’ll claim today, that there is no conflict—that they’ll provide information in a variety of media and be stronger for it.
They’re wrong. The big print media companies—from Time Inc. to Penton Media to Ziff Davis and Nielsen—are struggling under the weight of their gargantuan (and rising) print cost structures even as print revenue stagnates or declines.
This creates a cycle of distraction: Companies go through round after round of cost-cutting, doubtless cutting the quality of their print products, but forced to cut nonetheless. And as corporate leaders focus on this troubled part of their businesses, they can’t possibly be giving the kind of attention they need to e-media, which is where most of the growth is.
Check the headlines. These things are telling us something, but for some reason, not everyone is listening. Most of the technology-publishing companies are approaching a “post-print” phase, where the majority of their revenue comes from e-media and print is kept as a side business. Print may represent a foundation for other media, but it’s not the future.