B-to-b publishers push new print titles despite brutal economy

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Despite the financial crisis and the slowdown in media spending, two of the b-to-b publishing industry’s top players—McGraw-Hill Cos. and PennWell Corp.—are forging ahead with new print magazines.

While introducing a print title in the current climate may seem counterintuitive, publishers insist that print—combined with a strong online component—can play a crucial role in establishing new media brands.

“Our research of the C-suite shows there’s still a high comfort level with print,” said Norbert Young, president of McGraw-Hill Construction, which earlier this month rolled out HQ, a magazine focused on green building that is being produced in collaboration with BusinessWeek. “The behavior is such that the CEO will see something in print that’s interesting, rip the page and send it down the line for a deeper dive online.”

HQ, with an initial circulation of 65,000, is starting off as a biannual publication. The 96-page debut issue carried 27 pages of advertising. Following the June 2009 issue, McGraw-Hill hopes to bump up the frequency to quarterly.

Next March, PennWell Corp. will launch Photovoltaics World, a bimonthly magazine covering the global photovoltaic solar cell manufacturing industry. The planned circulation for the magazine is 10,000, with an additional 10,000 subscribers online. PennWell also announced plans for two Photovoltaics World Exhibitions to be held in the U.S. and Europe in 2010, in conjunction with the company's existing Renewable Energy World Conferences & Exhibitions.

“In virtually every other industry, advertisers have moved dollars from print to digital media, yet because this is a new industry, advertisers want to go back to basics and brand in print, coupled with digital marketing,” said Kris Collins, publisher of Photovoltaics World.

McGraw-Hill and PennWell are definitely going against the tide. Through the first nine months of this year, b-to-b ad revenue fell 5.9%, according to American Business Media’s Business Information Network. Ad pages slid 8.3%.

This year, 335 new magazines were launched, compared with 389 in 2007, according to, an online database of U.S. and Canadian periodicals. In the b-to-b sector, computer-related magazines topped the list with 10 new titles. However, the recession has already taken a toll, as Systems Management News, a biweekly that BZ Media debuted in April, was shuttered in November.

“The product would have been successful, unfortunately the macroeconomic picture put pressure on the business and we felt we needed to concentrate on our core products,” said Ted Bahr, president of BZ Media, whose flagship title is SDTimes. “It was a matter of timing, not print is dead.”

Trish Hagood, president of Oxbridge Communications, publisher of, said that because the budgets for new print titles were already in the pipeline before the financial crisis intensified, “next year will be more indicative of how the economy will affect new print launches."

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