The Role of Print for the Online Obsessed
Paradoxically, the magazine industry is obsessed with online media. Advertisers are flooding the online channels, with some publishers telling me they can’t create e-media channels fast enough to sell.
Even in my market, where we cover the magazine industry, the growth of advertising online is so significant that it will rival the size of the monthly print magazine in the not-too-distant-future.
That obsession, then, is not all that surprising. In fact, I have in the past predicted that print-weeklies on the b-to-b side are dinosaurs. Especially in the IT space, there is a lot of evidence to support this. Overall advertising spending in the big IT weeklies has declined dramatically-fallen off a cliff-in the last several years. Some of them are barely hanging on.
So why is it that over the last couple of days I’m rethinking this area anew? Several reasons. First, I’ve never been an online true believer. I’ve never concluded (unlike many others) that print media is in an inexorable decline and has in some served markets become an impediment, not part of the solution.
Second, I’ve had some really interesting conversations recently on exactly this topic. First, Ted Bahr of BZ Media and I had a conversation about print at the U.S. Open this month, and while he noted the decline of the IT weeklies, he also said that his audience-both advertisers and readers-like his print magazine for software developers.
Maybe even more interestingly, he noted that his an all other magazines he knows of don’t have any falloff in print subscriptions-direct-request is not declining, renewals are not falling off, nor are they more costly to acquire. (Things are a bit different on the consumer side, but not all that different.)
So there is no decline in reader interest in print, even as advertisers seemingly begin to write it off.
Then I had a conversation with IDG’s Bob Carrigan the other day where he emphatically stated that the solution to the decline in advertising in print weeklies is not to reduce the frequency. He said the nature of buying in the weeklies is such that a reduction in frequency would essentially mean one-quarter of the spend, because the marketers would not end up bulking up on a single monthly, say. So print, even in decline, somehow stays vital.
And then today in a Folio: and CM Webinar on lead generation, I heard the case made in a compelling way to integrate print into lead generation in a way that is very different from the old bingo card approach and much closer to the online lead-generation methods. This is big, in my opinion, because when you tie print to online media, the sum is far better than the individual parts.