Wednesday, 11th March 2009
Tim Buckley Owen
Trade and business publications are under threat as never before. Print versions are dying because there’s not the advertising to support them, the give-away approach that’s been initially necessary to tempt readers to the online version is unsustainable in the long term, and there are plenty of bloggers willing to publish their views for nothing. Publications from Crain Communications are among the latest victims.
Last December the company closed its print version of Financial Week (http://digbig.com/4yjye); now the web version is to close too, as are two other European titles, Automotive News Europe and Business Insurance Europe.
However Informa – publisher of Lloyd’s List, Insurance Day and Cityscape Magazine among others – has reported strong results for 2008 (http://digbig.com/4yjyf). The vast majority of its profits come from subscriptions which customers pay in advance, while only 3% of its revenues come from advertising, and over 70% of its publishing revenues are delivered in electronic format. A new Outsell report, Market Analysis: Leaders in the B2B Print to Electronic Revenue Shift (http://digbig.com/4yjyg), notes that print revenues in the business to business publishing sector dropped from 58.3% of the total to 40% from 2003 to 2008, while electronic revenues climbed from 18% to 33.9%. It predicts 50% electronic within five years - still some way short of Informa’s current 70%.
Meanwhile new figures from Nielsen for the Newspaper Association of America (http://digbig.com/4yjyh) show the unique audience for newspaper web sites increasing by nearly 12% over the year, from around 67 million to nearly 75 million (although page views remain fairly stable).
And a report on the recent FT Digital Media and Broadcasting conference in paidContent:UK (http://digbig.com/4yjyj) speculates that 2030 might be the date by which printed newspapers are finished – and also reports in passing that FT.com has now reduced its number of free stories per month from 30 to 20 to 10. Trade and business publications are the lifeblood of any corporate information service.
Without them, there’s no instant intelligence on clients and competitors, no overview of industries and markets, no early warning of new reports on your sector. As content costs have continued to rise, information managers have taken advantage of news providers’ struggle to find a suitable pricing model for their online offerings by moving from ‘premium’ to ‘good enough’ services where possible.
But that won’t be possible for ever. Maybe a period of severe downturn is a good time for infopros to start learning about how to function effectively in the non-print, non-free world of quality business content that is to come.
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