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Not ‘Giving an Inch’: Some Initial Results

It is our responsibility to sell the benefits of print as a medium.


Ted Bahr By Ted Bahr
01/12/2010 -12:13 PM






A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about “not giving an inch,” in terms of selling print to my customers. My friend Tony Silber, among others privately, took issue with this [“The Last Samurai”] and questioned whether I was losing my mind or was becoming some sort of anachronism.

The jury may still be out on that, but I am going to expand on my reasoning and share the results of our efforts to “not give an inch,” this Fall at my company.

My proposition was that, as an industry, we have a responsibility to sell the benefits of print as a medium as opposed to the old days of just selling against competitive titles. As much of the industry seems to be afraid of this, I think there is also an opportunity here to take significant market share.
Awareness, interest, engagement—none of this has gone away. I don’t hear arguments that awareness building is better done on the Internet than in print in trade markets. The unique benefits of print have not changed—but they are not trumpeted.

Trade magazine readership is shrinking. Fewer people read magazines, and the time spent with them is less. Many people do not read any magazines or newspapers at all. But trade magazines never reached the entire market—in fact, rarely have they ever reached more than 10 percent. So that hasn’t changed. The remaining publications need to be more relevant, more engaging, more targeted at a reading audience like middle managers who don’t necessarily know what solutions they are looking for.

There will still be print advertisers. There will be surviving trade magazines. By not giving an inch, you may become one of those survivors, and there are benefits to this:

1. By being the only game in town you can reduce your costs appropriately to be in line with what is now expected for print advertising

2. By being the print survivor you probably have a stronger, more active and committed database to promote webinars and lead generation programs to.

3. As readers and advertisers scan the field, they see only us. We become a must-buy element simply by having survived.

4. Know that competitors will continue to shut down, leaving more opportunity—IF you sell print aggressively (“yes, Mr. Advertiser, they went out of business, but here’s why they did and why we are still relevant—in fact MORE relevant than before…”)

So these were the benefits we had in mind at our company, as we continued to sell print aggressively during the Fall, when we are selling the print contracts for the next year. The results are in and our print contract sales are up 32.6 percent over last year. Not bad for a recession. Some titles went out of business and we took market share from our remaining competitors (their January issues are down from last year). We convinced the remaining print advertisers that we were going to be the survivor and that there were still unique benefits from print advertising.

It’s not easy to zig while others zag. And to be sure, we’re zagging and selling our online offerings hard, too. But by not giving an inch on print, I think we made out pretty well.

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Ted Bahr By Ted Bahr -- Ted Bahr founded BZ Media, a technology-focused media company, with Alan Zeichick in 1999. Before that, Ted held numerous positions at Miller Freeman, finally as a Group President and member of the Board of Directors. At Miller Freeman, Ted launched 8 magazines, plus many conferences and ancillary products. He has managed magazines in many markets including computers, electronics, music, video, travel, real estate, interior design and manufacturing.

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