Keeping print afloat

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B-to-b publishers have gotten used to the idea of advertising dollars migrating to the Web, but none wants to see vast sums of money moving out of print. As the economy becomes less certain, though, b-to-b publishers are aware that advertisers could make sudden shifts in strategy and budgets.

"Online will take care of itself," said Alan Robinson, group publisher of Reed Business Information's EDN. "We can hardly keep up with the demand. When you're talking about print, though, you have to ask yourself how it's going to survive."

There's no foolproof way to prevent a rush of revenue out of print, but some publishers are being more proactive than others, making sure their sales and marketing teams are consistently reinforcing print's value within the advertising mix.

Robinson and his team are using two strategies to keep Reed Business' electronics flagship, EDN, viable in print. First, they invest in content that lends itself well to the print medium. Second, they provide advertisers with research to prove it matters.

"Our approach really calls for print execution," he said. "EDN is written by electronics engineers. The editorial is in-depth and solutions-oriented, and it delves into the complex issues engineers must design around today. This type of information is hard to absorb on the Web."

EDN's research backs up the common wisdom that businesspeople use print early in the buying cycle. "Our team is going around with the readership study to explain to buyers that key decisions are being made early in the design process. That's when engineers turn to peers and trade journals," Robinson said.

At e.Republic, Exec VP Don Pearson and his team don't try to protect their print advertising. Instead, they build print components into integrated, multimedia programs.

"In this day and age, there really is a glut of information on the Web," Pearson said. "If you want to drive traffic to your online assets, either on your own site or on our site, you still need to grab people's attention. An e-newsletter is one tactic, but print is another element."

For e.Republic's 3-year-old Digital Communities quarterly publication, Web site and events, Pearson created a set of tiered, multimedia sponsorship packages at three different spending levels. All include print, online, live events and custom publishing. "The print ads are not

closing the program, but advertisers are going for the comprehensive value proposition that is designed to produce results," he said.

Gary Rubin, chief publishing and e-media officer at the Society for Human Resource Management, uses words like luxurious and pleasurable to describe the experience he wants readers to get from HR Magazine, and he insists this direction makes good business sense.

Although some advertisers are pulling away from print to buy more online advertising, "I still have a $10 million-plus magazine, and it's a good, profitable business," Rubin said.

"I'm creating this luxurious reading environment—with thought-provoking stories, pull-out quotes, great photographs and illustrations—so that the magazine has a larger, more engaged audience," he explained. "And advertisers follow readers."

Like Robinson, Rubin makes sure to back up his beliefs with hard evidence. "We commission a third-party readership study every two years," he said. "By almost a four-to-one ratio, people prefer reading our magazine as compared to the next largest competitor."

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