The power of print

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When Computer Associates rebranded itself CA in November, it showered print media with new advertisements to help get the word out (Listen to a 10-minute podcast with CA about its rebranding). The computer giant ran ads in general business publications such as Financial Times, Forbes, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal. It also bought space in several tech trades, including CIO Insight, Computerworld and Information Week .

CA also bought search words on Google and Yahoo!, but print was the key to the campaign.

"We've dabbled in radio and broadcast, but print allows you to associate your company with marquee names that tend to lift your brand," said Joan Blackwood, senior VP-worldwide marketing at CA. "We want to talk to the C-suite, the technologists and the influencers, but with every enterprise sale there are many people you can reach who influence a sale. Print can do that."

Although CA's marketing budget has shifted in the last few years to approximately 75% print and 25% online, from about 90% print and 10% online, Blackwood said the company remains bullish on print media. "It's not an either/or," she said. "You can get big numbers online, but that doesn't mean you can't have a different dimension with the touch and feel of a print product."

As the CA example shows, reports of print's demise have been grossly exaggerated, as magazines continue to be solid marketing vehicles for b-to-b marketers. However, the increasing velocity of the Internet is forcing publishers to integrate their print properties online faster than ever or have their brands face extinction in what is shaping up to be a Darwinian shakeout in b-to-b media.

Courage to kill a product

"If you get to the point where your readership and your advertisers are gravitating online, you have to have the courage to kill a print product," said Bob Carrigan, president of technology publishing company IDG Corp. "Our bet is a majority of our revenue will be from online media in the next few years. And as a percentage of revenue, we don't see [online] slowing down."

"Right now we're managing print for profitability," Carrigan said, "and if we do a good job of building brands online, they'll be able to stand on their own and will no longer depend on print."

Gary Slack, chairman-chief experience officer of b-to-b ad agency Slack Barshinger, said many of his clients-which include eBay, Tellabs and Underwriters Laboratories-have started to shift their media spending away from print and into online. "I don't disagree with people who say ink on paper may be significantly marginalized in the next 10 to 15 years," he said. "But, today, print is still an essential and one of the largest components of most integrated communications programs, because the marketplace b-to-b companies are trying to reach still relies on print."

Print media may increasingly be viewed as dinosaurs, but it's important to note that dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years before they became extinct. For now, marketers are continuing to put their ad dollars in trade publications.

B-to-b print ad revenue finished 2005 up 5.4% from the previous year, as marketers spent about $10.6 billion on trade publications, according to the Business Information Network, a unit of American Business Media. Ad pages finished the year up 4%.

ABM projects print revenue will grow 4% to 5% this year, while ad pages are expected to increase 3%; online ad revenue should grow 20% to 22% and trade show revenue 6% to 7%.

By contrast, the Interactive Advertising Bureau estimates Internet ad revenue topped $12.5 billion in 2005, up 30% from $9.6 billion in 2004.

While print ad revenue was up overall last year, many magazines lost ad pages. Among the top 20 trade publications in revenue last year, only five saw ad pages grow, according to IMS/The Auditor. Many tech-oriented titles suffered double-digit declines in print ad pages.

Need to adapt aggressively

"Media markets are going through radical change, and we need to adapt aggressively," said Scott Vaughan, publisher of Information Week .

Vaughan said Information Week has instilled a "video-programming" mentality, and that editors and reporters now carry Webcams into the field when they cover stories so they can quickly feed the information online and make it available for download. The publication has also launched "Inside Information Week," a weekly roundtable discussion online that enables subscribers to drill down into stories that initially ran in the print edition.

Alan Meckler, CEO of Jupitermedia, singled out enterprise IT magazines as the most vulnerable to being shuttered "because the target market wants that type of information yesterday."

If b-to-b publishers want to maintain print as a viable marketing tool, they have to step up their efforts to offer more integrated communications, said Greg Watt, COO of Watt Publishing. "People's skill sets have to change up and down the organization: senior management, sales, production, audience development," he said. "Companies have to provide a much more consultative approach and provide `big idea' programs to advertisers that are going to elevate the brand." Watt added: "None of us are going to survive on print alone, and those that try to will die."

Media-agnostic approach

Savvy publishers are responding to the growing demand from marketers for a media-agnostic approach.

"It all depends on your target and your objective," said Nancy Abraham, director of integrated marketing communications at Allstate Insurance, when asked how the insurer views print media as a marketing mechanism. "We believe in both print and online," she added.

Allstate is boosting its print budget this year to support an automotive insurance product it rolled out last year. The product, Your Choice Auto, which rewards safe driving with added insurance protection, is being supported by ads in Money, Newsweek, Time and U.S. News & World Report, as well as recruitment ads for sales agents in publications including The Wall Street Journal and insurance-trade title Best Review .

"Print isn't dead," Abraham said. "Each medium has a specific role."

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