Carrigan Discusses InfoWorld Closure (posted 3/26)
Online, events, far outstripped print revenue in recent years.
The news today that IDG Communications would shutter 27-year-old, 180,000-circ. InfoWorld with its April 2 issue in favor of an event and online-only approach had the publishing blogosphere buzzing, including many people lamenting the loss of the print publication. Ultimately, the move probably isn’t a surprise: Sources at IDG say in recent years that online and events generated about 70 percent of InfoWorld’s revenue. While IDG Communications president Bob Carrigan recently said at a Folio: conference that print still accounted for more than 50 percent of IDG’s overall revenue, it’s clear that it’s a changed business. Folio: spoke with Carrigan about the shift at InfoWorld and what this could mean for the rest of IDG’s print stable.
Folio: Does this decision have more to do with the viability of a print weekly in this category, or the viability of print in general in this category?
Carrigan: InfoWorld today is predominantly an online and events business in terms of revenue distribution. Print is not a huge part of the business today. I appreciate that it’s momentous that a 27-year-old print publication is no longer going to publish, but it’s part of the strategy. InfoWorld is a great brand that’s transitioned beautifully.
Folio: You’ve mentioned that there is less than 10 percent crossover between print readers and online viewers across IDG. What is the breakdown of the InfoWorld audience?
Carrigan: Our online audience is substantially larger than the 180,000 controlled qualified subscribers we reached in print. The brand focuses on key topics such as SOA and virtualization. There’s a huge number of IT management that is interested in that content. Obviously, they experience it differently than the print audience. Some may come to us through search engines, and maybe we don’t know as much about them as those we reached in print. But we’re seeing an audience not too dissimilar to the one we have in print. It’s just much larger and they’re coming to download a podcast, watch video, read an article. We do have a community effort called IT Exec-Connect. It’s much more interactive. We’re just reaching many more folks online than we ever did in print.
Folio: Last year we did story on the viability of print weeklies, including InfoWorld, and there was a sense that you couldn’t sell online at the same price without a print component. Why has that changed?
Carrigan: It’s changed because there’s a dearth of good, quality inventory in the marketplace. It has nothing to do with tying in with print. Our inventory is in high demand online. We have a lot and we need even more. When you’ve got that kind of scarcity, it means the question of print or any other tie-in is academic.
Folio: Consumer publishers who’ve made the similar decision to go online-only say it’s going to be a smaller but more profitable business for them. Can you talk about how the online and events business at InfoWorld will compare to what the print used to be?
Carrigan: InfoWorld is primarily an online and events brand in terms of today’s revenue mix. Those businesses are already bigger than print and they’re forecast to grow. The conference business is forecast to grow in the double digits. The most conservative estimates of online growth are in the 20 percent range. We expect we’ll have a much bigger business online and that has nothing to do with print no longer being in the business. Some of these consumer magazines that went online-only, they’re not in such defined categories;we’re reaching tech enthusiasts, people who are very tech savvy, and happy to consume content digitally. Our marketers are tech savvy and very experimental on the Web. They’re happy to spend money if they get the ROI online, and we seem to be doing an okay job giving them the solutions they need right now.
Folio: What happens with the online content? Any plans to gate it?
Carrigan: Our content is widely available on the Web and we do have premium products that users can register for. They give us business card information in exchange and we can capture information for lead-gen programs. All our writers write first for the Web anyway. They all create videos and podcasts and screencasts, you name it. They’ll just continue to do that. We used to post on the Web and edit for print. Now we just won’t have to edit for print anymore. You won’t see any changes with the Web site.
Folio: Who is affected by the change?
Carrigan: Some people in production and circulation. In terms of the editors and salespeople, they’re already there. Editors write for the Web and produce content for the events, and the sales people sell all the products. A lot of publishers play lip service to being "online first" but we really are. Print was just a way of distributing what’s already been posted on the Web. We did it when it was a good advertising business and as soon as that business turned south on us, we didn’t need to do it anymore. Everything is architected against being an online and event company that also happens to produce a print magazine. In the last 18 months, we’ve grown the online and events business to the point where it is the dominant part of the business.
Folio: What’s this mean for other magazines at IDG?
Carrigan: There’s less print adverting in our category and marketers are coring down to fewer publications. There are a lot of tech publications and we’ve got award-winning properties. Our leadership brands are doing relatively well in print. It’s not that we won’t make changes to those brands to make sure we right-size the expenses to the revenue but we’re going to continue to evolve that and watch it closely. We still have a lot of print magazines and it’s a good business for us.