Even as ad dollars continue to shift online, print is securing its role in the media mix
Print advertising has been slipping for years as marketers shift an ever greater portion of their spending online, but will print advertising suffer disproportionately as the current recession continues?
The answer is not an obvious yes. Publishers that have made a commitment to integrated media—and have maintained leadership positions within their competitive set—are less likely to see a radical change in the media mix, b-to-b media executives said.
American Business Media's BIN report examines print advertising performance in 21 markets on business-to-business publications tracked by IMS/The Auditor and PERQ/HCI. For full-year 2007, BIN figures showed print advertising revenues down 2.0%.
For 2008, Gordon T. Hughes II, ABM president-CEO, predicted that the print revenue decline will continue at the same pace or increase slightly, ending the year down 2% to 4% over 2007.
Hughes said he expects online advertising to continue its growth, but at a more moderate pace. He estimated that in 2008, online will be up 18% to 22% over 2007.
Hughes added that in recent years b-to-b media companies have become less dependent on print, targeting their customers' total marketing budgets rather than the advertising portion alone.
McGraw-Hill Cos. is the kind of company to which Hughes refers. “Media is only a piece of what we can do to help our customers sell,” said Harry Sachinis, president of McGraw-Hill's Business Information Group. “We connect buyers and sellers through advertising and lead generation, through information about their markets, through work-flow tools and through transaction environments. So we see a broader opportunity beyond advertising.”
Sachinis said that he has not seen marketers abandoning the print platform within his portfolio. But as the recession puts more pressure on second- and third-tier publications, “it is those that will feel the cuts in print budgets first. Some of those magazines may not have the staying power to bounce back when the economy recovers,” he said.
Neal Vitale, president-CEO of 1105 Media, observed that media was in recession before the general economy. “Marketers are talking about shifting online for lead generation, assuming those dollars will be more productive,” he said.
“It's hard to imagine a situation where online won't continue to grow,” Vitale added.
Marketers have learned that audiences like to use multiple media, and dollars will continue to follow those eyeballs. “Marketers are shifting money online right now, but I think they will find the natural balance over time between online and print,” Vitale said.
Scott Vaughan, VP-marketing services for United Business Media's TechWeb division, said, “There is no question that digital is at the center of programs today because the tools are there for marketers to get direct, quantifiable results. But I have noticed a print rebound within the past 10 months as marketers try to balance their efforts between short-term goals and their need to influence the entire decision-making spectrum for the long term.”
Even though marketing budgets may shrink, “we have a much more seasoned group of marketers,” Vaughan said. “You have to hope that they have learned to look at media in a truly integrated way.” He is equally hopeful that marketers will decide to cut media brands that underperform rather than lopping off their print efforts.
Bob Sullivan, VP-publisher of Northstar Travel Media's Travel Weekly, echoed that sentiment. “Marketers become more discriminating when budgets get tight, and my guess is that they will consolidate their buys with media leaders,” he said.
Like the technology marketers using TechWeb, travel industry marketers that survived the last recession and the post-9/11 travel industry crash now understand the benefits of using multiple media to meet their goals. “If you're working with clients in the right way—with an integrated strategy—you're in a good position to get through a rough period,” Sullivan said. M