TechTarget CEO Greg Strakosch said the announcement last year that his company would launch a new print magazine called CIO Decisions , debuting this month, was not welcomed with open arms. "People were, like, `You're crazy,' " he said.
TechTarget is not alone in bucking the naysayers who contend print is a doomed medium. In fact, a surprising number of b-to-b media companies have launched magazines in the past 24 months, including publishers large (McGraw-Hill Cos.), small (Harbor Communications) and even Internet-focused (TechTarget).
In general, these launches have several characteristics in common. First, they borrow from the power of an established brand and are often polybagged, at least at first, with an existing magazine. Second, they target a new or underserved niche coveted by b-to-b marketers, which crave focused media. And third, they display a resilient faith in the power of print, both as a stand-alone medium and in conjunction with the Web and conferences.
"We have found that our electronic products not affiliated with a print product don't do as well as our electronic products that are attached to a print publication," said Jeffrey Klein, president-CEO of 101communications, which plans to debut Redmond Channel Partner later this year.
Print still strong
The number of properties that have applied for audits from BPA Worldwide recently provides evidence that publishers still believe print products can generate organic growth. Properties (most, but not all, print) applying for BPA audits totaled 295 last year, up from 261 in 2003.
SRDS listed 5,177 publications at the end of 2004, up from 5,085 at the beginning of 2003.
Among new b-to-b print magazines, CIO Decisions offers a template of the process for creating a new title.
First of all, it has the backing of a powerful tech media brand in TechTarget.
Perhaps more important, it is aligned with two respected names in tech publishing: Joe Levy, TechTarget exec VP and founder of International Data Group's CIO magazine, and Maryfran Johnson, editor in chief of CIO Decisions and the winner of American Business Media's inaugural Timothy White Award for journalistic integrity while the editor in chief of IDG's Computerworld .
"We invested a lot of money in talent here," Strakosch said, adding that the news coverage generated by hiring Johnson away from IDG last year helped the launch. "We've built a nice little buzz in the market," he said.
Strakosch has said previously that the IT market is "overpublished." So, how can he justify launching a new print vehicle in the sector? "It's the same formula we've been using for all TechTarget launches," he said. "We take a big, broad market, and we go in and look at it. We say, `What piece of this market is being underserved both from an audience viewpoint and an advertiser viewpoint?"'
In this case, TechTarget believes that the midmarket CIO is not served well by the large IT magazines. CIO Decisions , which has a controlled circulation of 60,000, hits this target. "I think the name of the game today is focus," Levy said.
Johnson said the response to the magazine has been positive among the target CIO audience. "They're answering their phones, and they're delighted with the attention," she said.
TechTarget said the initial response from advertisers has also been encouraging. "We sold 14 pages, all on the rate card," Strakosch said.
Building on `BusinessWeek'
This template of identifying an undeserved audience and then targeting it with a new print publication riding on the coattails of an established brand is quite common across b-to-b media. McGraw-Hill followed it in launching BusinessWeek's SmallBiz magazine in summer 2004.
The quarterly publication uses the imprimatur of the BusinessWeek name to reach decision-makers at small businesses. BusinessWeek noticed that advertisers ranging from Hewlett-Packard Co. to American Express Open Network wanted to reach this market. "One of the reasons we did launch it is that there is a pretty strong demand for a product to help advertisers reach this market," said Geoff Dodge, publisher of SmallBiz and senior VP-publisher, North America for BusinessWeek. "It's a very loose group, but it's a huge market at the end of the day."
SmallBiz reaches a controlled circulation of 500,000 culled from McGraw-Hill's database, which includes subscribers to the company's construction, aviation and energy properties. Dodge said he believes the magazine is on the right track, pointing to, among other things, a 10-page unit from IBM Corp. in the second issue. "I can tell you that after our first two issues, we exceeded our expectations pretty tremendously," he said. Additionally, the magazine last month won a Jesse H. Neal Award for best new b-to-b launch of 2004.
Primedia Business Magazines & Media also used a respected brand to provide some punch to a new print launch last year. It used the Ward's automotive brand to back the launch of Ward's Auto Electronics , a bimonthly title covering the increasing use of electronics in automotive design.
John French, Primedia Business exec VP, said the genesis of the magazine came from the editors of RF Magazine and Power Electronics Technology , who noticed they needed more space for their coverage of automotive. "It usually starts with the editors first," French said of new launch ideas.
Primedia then followed with research into the number of ad pages in the market and was encouraged by the size. "The good news for us is the first issue in October of 2004 and so far this year have surpassed budget," French said.
Photography in print
Some recent print launches support the notion that magazines offer unique advantages. Many people, for instance, say print displays photography more attractively than other media do.
Vance Publishing Corp., which publishes Modern Salon, launched Renew Professional in October 2003 to reach the operators of in-salon spas. The magazine has a wider folio than the typical magazine to provide a larger canvas for both editorial and advertising photography. "It enhances the design, and it gives us a little bit more white space to play with," said Michele Musgrove, editorial director of Vance's Modern Salon Media.
Similarly, Advanstar Communications launched Hotel Design last year with a wide format and an emphasis on photography. "It's a picture book," explained Scott Pierce, exec VP of the company's travel group. He said Advanstar's Hotel & Motel Management couldn't attract enough interior design advertisers. "They didn't want to be in a news tabloid," he said. "It's all about environment."
Other magazine launches show that print provides a strong format for in-depth exploration of complex topics. Launched in affiliation with Penton Media's Business Finance, Business Performance Management covers the complicated topic of ensuring that a business' finances are aligned with Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulations. Currently, the magazine is a quarterly, and David Blansfield, group publisher, said the editorial staff needs that time to produce editorial worthy of the readers' time. "We don't anticipate we'll be going any more than six times a year," he said.
Dan Ramella and Bill Donohue, who left Penton last year in a management shakeup, have not soured on print. They have formed Harbor Communications and are launching Club & Resort Business this month. After 27 years at Penton, Ramella has print in his bones. "I think a lot of trade publishers have shot themselves in the foot by talking down print," he said.