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Hard-Hit Niche Publishers Rethink Strategies

Publishers up accountability, packages.



By Jason Fell
01/16/2009

The Publishers Information Bureau’s 2008 year-end report made it painfully official: Ad pages in consumer magazines took a massive blow last year, declining 11.7 percent when compared to 2007. As it turned out, the ailing financial market severely impacted niche publishers, including those serving the auto, business/finance, home, music and other industries.

With ad dollars evaporating and no economic rebound in sight, many niche market publishers are looking for new ways to meet and capture advertisers’ dollars in 2009.

Increasing Accountability, ROI

At NewBay Media—which publishes more than 50 publications serving the audio, musical instruments, broadcast/video, systems integration and education markets—John Pledger, vice president and group publishing director of NewBay Media’s Music Play Network and Pro Audio Group, projects first quarter 2009 ad revenues at its music magazines will be down roughly 10 percent.

“In the large-circulation guitar segment, our larger, more corporate advertisers with multi-brand/product lines had typically run multiple insertions—at an appreciably high yield—are now pulling back to single insertions and, in some cases, going dark completely through the end of the year,” he said. Pledger manages six magazines, including Guitar Player and Pro Sound News.

In addition to asking for rate reductions, Pledger’s advertisers, like many others, are looking for more quantifiable buys. In turn, Pledger says he and his team are developing resources to help his clients sell products.

“At the end of the first quarter we will be introducing a major new online resource for both manufacturers and end users dedicated exclusively to music industry product listings and retail locations,” Pledger said. "Additionally, the site will incorporate both peer and professional product reviews and product demo videos. Manufacturers and retailers will have the opportunity to promote national or regional promotions, in-store events or other specials they have going on.”   

In print, Pledger is launching a series of newsstand instructional titles with companion DVDs in an effort to increase “entry-level” readership and, in turn, create new customers for his ad clients, he said.

Reexamining Product Grouping

As one of the larger niche/enthusiast publishers, F+W Media hasn’t been immune to the ad revenue falloff. With ad revenues declining (starting most notably in September), F+W last fall underwent a company-wide reorganization, grouping its products not by channel but according to 15 “communities,” each led by a publisher/editorial director.

“We believe this will help sales of all of our products as there are many cross-selling and also cross-content opportunities,” CEO David Nussbaum told FOLIO:. “Although we are not forecasting much in the way of revenue growth, we believe that our margins will grow handsomely as we leverage the market expertise that was resident in the vertical organization but will not be resident within communities.”

With his staffs working together within the community divisions, Nussbaum is forecasting new "organic growth products in the several million dollar range.” Also as part of the new structure, F+W has e-commerce and offline marketing teams managing customer relationships and launching online stores for each community which, according to Nussbaum, helps drive revenue. 

“It’s clear that when the economy is difficult, people rely on their hobbies and passions as a way to ‘escape’ the real world and reduce the stress of everyday life,” he said. “We believe the ad downturn we’re seeing is manageable, and is not dramatic.”

By Jason Fell
01/16/2009







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