A few magazines have been shut down by Media 24. Does this signal that trade and technical magazines are in trouble?
There are fundamental reasons why long standing magazine brands find themselves in deep water. Factors such as market fragmentation, technological advancements (in content production and distribution), unfavourable economic conditions plus reader time and inclination pressures. The bottom line is that no business person with an ounce of good sense will continue publishing without a positive contribution to the bottom line.
For many years the trade and technical publishing sector has been vibrant, contributing positively by distributing industry specific information to buyers and sellers. Of course there have been annoying exceptions such as publishers refusing to apply for an ABC, content disguised as fawning advertorial and badgering of clients for advertising, which serves as the primary financial model.
Evaluation of a trade magazine to ensure it remains on track editorially, true to its founding statement and that the market is willing to support it with advertising has to be undertaken every now and again. Herein lies the primary role of the publisher. A collaborative approach is required including management of the horrific dynamic that exists between over zealous sales people and puritanical editors. It’s not for sissies. And this is where major publishing groups cannot compete. The time, skill and attention required to keep a trade magazine afloat is under-estimated and vastly different from the publishing of consumer titles, whether niched or of general interest.
Another indication of mis-understanding trade magazines became apparent in recent press reports and commentary. Niche titles refer to consumer magazines that enjoy revenue from advertising, copy sales and subscriptions. What makes them differ from general magazines is that their subject matter is driven by an interest such as sport. Trade magazines rely on advertising with limited subscription revenue and are seldom found on shelf.
As general consumer magazines have seen circulation decreases and special interest, or niched magazines have offered alternatives to readers, so readership levels and income has shifted. Media 24 along with Caxton and a few others really understand how to produce, distribute and sell magazines that enjoy circulations of above 30 000. Their staff is dedicated to ensuring that ABC numbers are maintained or grown. Trade on the other hand enjoy higher CPT rates because their distribution is focussed and controlled by the publisher. There is limited wastage.
Are trade magazines under threat? All broadcast and print media are challenged by the biggest change bullet experienced for decades. Media owners are investigating and evaluating their brands in the context of technological changes in content creation and distribution. This includes trade magazines and it certainly does not suggest their demise.
Closure of trade titles that have lost their way and the strengthening of others as a consequence, are welcome.
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