Fuel crunch propels energy titles

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Anyone who tells you print advertising is dead should take a look at recent activity in the often-staid petroleum and oil publishing sector. In a world in which print ads are shrinking but energy prices are exploding, this b-to-b category—home to the likes of PennWell Publishing and Hart Energy Publishing—is showing remarkable resiliency in an ad climate supposedly wracked by erosion and defections to the Internet and other media outlets.

According to Toronto-based IMS-The Auditor, however, the dozen Petro/Oil books it tracks have gained 11% in ad pages through October. While this isn't the late-1990s breakneck pace of some computing magazines—a category that these days is down 14%—it isn't a decline. In fact, unlike a number of b-to-b categories, fully three-quarters of the Petro/Oil group—led by Pennwell's 105-year-old Oil & Gas Journal (+17.3%) and Hart's E&P (+16.7%)—showed gains for the year, a claim that would make any publisher proud.

What's behind the growth? Fed by rapidly expanding economies in China, India and elsewhere, energy demand keeps growing, despite high fuel prices. In the past, U.S. resistance to higher prices went a long way to help temper increases; that is no longer the case. Even if the U.S. were to reduce its fuel consumption—unlikely anytime soon—continuing brisk demand in a booming global economy could keep prices rising for years to come.

But that's not all: There's been growth in energy-producing locations such as Russia, Venezuela and even the oil fields of Alberta, Canada. As exploration and production spread to more remote locations, it means big business—and some big advertising gains—in a number of markets, including engineering expertise, high-end exploration and drilling equipment, industrial transportation and advanced refining capacity.

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