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B-to-b print media shows resilience

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It's become almost cliché in some circles to say print is dead. But don't tell that to The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Businessweek—No. 1 and No. 4, respectively, in this year's Media Power 50—which have both invested heavily in expanding their print products in recent years. And don't tell it to Aviation Week & Space Technology, The Hollywood Reporter, Progressive Grocer, Successful Meetings or Travel Weekly. Each of these trade magazines saw more than a 10% gain in print ad pages last year, according to IMS-The Auditor. Harry Stagnito, president-CEO of Stagnito Media, publisher of Progressive Grocer, is a firm believer in the continuing viability of print. “I don't want to hear print is dead,” he declared during one of the more spirited sessions at last month's American Business Media Annual Conference in Amelia Island, Fla. “We're going to go after every single page that's out there.” In an interview after the session, Stagnito reflected on private equity companies' tendency to downplay the importance of print in the media mix. “If we were able to educate private equity companies better in the whole area of integrated media and they really wanted to pay attention to it, then I think they would be able to understand that print is not dead,” he said. “It's transitioning, but it's not dead.” ABM research presented at the conference showed the continuing importance of print. A survey of 6,682 media users found that 96% turn to print magazines for industry-related content. That matched exactly the percentage of those who go to media websites for such information. The survey also found that 45% of users read industry-related magazines at least weekly. ABM President-CEO Clark Pettit spent a considerable part of his career in the music business, where he saw firsthand how the digital revolution could disrupt an entire industry. He said that 15 to 20 years ago, it appeared that CDs were “dead, done, they're gone,” and yet they're still around today. He sees similarities in the case of print media. “People who say print is dead miss the point entirely,” he said in an interview during the ABM conference. “The role of print in an integrated media business has transformed.” Pettit said that even in markets where print is no longer a profitability driver, it still provides the “brand validation” that drives people to events or to sign up for subscription products. “It is a critical part of the mix and, properly managed from a cost basis, it enables the other profitable growth businesses to have the validation and support that positions them to win,” he said. I predict that five years from now—after scores more obituaries to the contrary—print will still be very much alive and relevant to readers and marketers alike. John Obrecht is editor of BtoB. He can be reached at jobrecht@crain.com.
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