Online publishing needs a dedicated approach

February 1, 2009

The advances of editorial information, the places it can be accessed, the falling costs of reading that editorial, and the simple fact that many readerships are migrating to the Web for convenience in an on-demand environment – all of these things and more are covered eloquently by Neil Thackray is his blog which will give many magazine directors much to think about.

As a B2B specialist, Thackray highlights the inherent dangers of offline magazine advertising teams attempting to deliver media sales to an online audience. It rarely works – how could it? – but this doesn’t prevent cash-strapped magazines trying to push more and more potential revenue streams onto traditional sales people amid falling subscription figures over the last 18 months. Not that this is confined to B2B publishing, of course, but the damage has been seen very clearly here.

I have seen falling paginations in the trade magazines in the sectors I edit for over the last year – including significant reductions by Haymarket on flagship titles. When the big boys are suffering, you know everybody else is too.

Thackray’s suggestions are excellent – including one of the most obvious, but overlooked points – to hire a Head of Digital Sales and start taking the online market seriously. I can vouch for this strategy, having seen magazine sales staff struggle to bring in offline advertisers. They don’t get it. The advertisers don’t get it. The benefits aren’t clear enough.

And whilst the entire publishing industry continues to reel from seemingly-daily newsroom cuts and editorial redundancies, the over-riding attitude of risk-aversion prevails. The true winners will get online and deliver content streams and added-value to advertisers. The true winners will realise that traditional B2B publishing business models will not work long-term.

The true winners will also nurture, encourage and value their editorial staff. When more evidence of this is in place, and this is combined with contemporary digital sales strategies which incorporate valuable editorial, the B2B market may succeed.

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