There's no disputing that the number of b-to-b publications has dwindled. In 2007, 137 closed, according to MediaFinder, a database of publications. In 2008, 120 folded. The pace seems to be picking up this year, with more than 20 business magazines being closed in the first two months of the year as marketers shift dollars to the Internet, especially to search engines such as Google.
In the past week alone:
? Penton Media announced the closure of Direct and Promo, saying it plans to fold their content into a new title, Chief Marketer. Penton shuttered six publications in 2008, according to MediaFinder.
? Crain Communications Inc., parent of BtoB, announced the closing of the print versions of Automotive News Europe, Business Insurance Europe and RCR Wireless News. In December, it shut down the print version of Financial Week.
? Vance Publishing said it was closing Design & Décor and Furniture Style.
The consensus is that the economy will force the closure of more trade publications, especially in industries hit hard by the recession, such as finance, construction and marketing.
“Any publication in real estate is going to suffer, depending upon how much they have in the bank,” said an industry observer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The same can be said for publications covering Wall Street. Look at Double Down.” Double Down, which published Trader Monthly, folded earlier this year.
There does, however, appear to be a difference in how tech and nontech magazines are being folded. The nontech books are being pushed into closure by the economy, while the tech publications are jumping of their own volition—at least in part—and landing on established Web properties. “It came a little bit sooner than they wanted it to, but they have been preparing for years,” Parker said of the discontinuation of the print versions of PC Magazine and Computer Shopper.
“It's not a transition you can do overnight,” said Jason Young, CEO of Ziff Davis Media, adding PC Magazine had been preparing for a digital-only future since the 2001 downturn. The title published its last print edition in January.
Young said the decline of the print version of PC Magazine (whose ad revenue dropped by $16 million between 2007 and 2008) and the rise of PCMag.com were inevitable as its audience and advertisers migrated to the Internet. He added that PCMag.com is up both in traffic and revenue so far this year. “I think we're quite happy with that decision [to go online-only],” he said.
Similarly, Josh London, general manager of ComputerShop-per.com, said SX2 Media Lab acquired Computer Shopper from CNET in 2006 with the goal of transforming it into an Internet-only brand. “Our best quarter online was the fourth quarter of 2008, and that allowed us to take this important step,” London said. The final print edition of Computer Shopper will be published in April.
ComputerShopper.com now has 1 million unique monthly visitors and 3 million page views, London said. The versatile site generates revenue from cost-per-thousand, cost-per-click and cost-per-acquisition models.
Stamats Business Media published the last print issue of Archi-Tech, a publication about the intersection of architecture and technology, earlier this year. The brand is alive as a Web site and a weekly e-newsletter. “It's a bold new experiment for us,” said Tim Fixmer, president of Stamats.
Meanwhile, Vance Publishing doesn't appear to be keeping the décor titles it closed alive as Web businesses. In an internal memo, Vance Chairman Bill Vance and President Peggy Walker said the moves were driven by the “worldwide recession” and designed to bolster investment in other sectors in which the company competes. “The moves we announced today will allow us to continue to profitably serve the agriculture, beauty and wood industries,” according to the internal memo.
Reed Phillips, co-managing partner at media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips, said of nontech magazines that have shut down: “If they haven't established a viable business in print that connects readers and advertisers, then they're probably unlikely to do it on the Web.
“If they haven't already got that presence on the Web and they're killing the print version, they've probably decided not to publish in that sector any longer.” M