The Tipping Point
First the bad news: Print advertising in tech magazines is declining by
five percent. That’s according to CMP Media CEO Steve Weitzner, and it
feels about right, and no one is disputing him.
In fact, at a speech at the Jordan, Edmiston CEO Dinner at ABM’s Spring
Meeting last month, Weitzner also flatly said that the weekly news
tabloids;an absolute staple of tech publishing and many other sectors
for decades;are finished.
This is interesting for two reasons: First, CMP has some of the biggest: Information Week and EE Times are two, and both were juggernauts;among the top ad-revenue producers in
b-to-b media. But the whole notion of a newsweekly in the age of blogs
and 24-hour, seven-day online news is — what’s the word: Quaint? Absurd?
Second, Weitzner is the first CEO to my knowledge to so publicly
denounce the core mission of print weeklies: News. They’ve been a dying
breed for years, and though they may survive as vehicles for analysis
and business intelligence, it’s getting harder to justify the economics
of a print weekly.
Anyway, I’m straying from the point, which is this: Even as print
declines at the tech-media companies, something else is happening,
seemingly all at once. For the first time, Weitzner, Pat McGovern and
others say, the decline in print dollars is being offset by an increase
in e-media dollars. That’s dollars. Not in terms of percentage growth
and decline, but actual revenue.
And that’s the good news. Really good news. Others, including Penton
Media in its first-quarter results report the same thing. (Penton is at
its own tipping point, interestingly. CEO David Nussbaum has taken a
ton of cost out of that business and been positioning it for growth in
e-media. So now the results of the next year or so will tell the story
of his success.)
But this overall shift in tech-publishing revenue is important. To me,
it represents a tipping point. We’ve heard for years that publishers
are changing, but here, again perhaps for the first time, is a positive
Publishers are adapting to a multimedia world either because they’ve
been forced by the flow of ad dollars or because of their own
innovation. Either way, it’s okay. This is evolution caught in the act.
It shows those executives (if there still are any) who cling to their
print-centric ways and their print-based cash cows like there is no
tomorrow that there really is a tomorrow, and it’s online as much as it
is in print.
What we’re looking at is the future of magazine media.