Canon Communications—Chairman and CEO Charles G. McCurdy is quick to point out—is not immune to the current economic environment. However, double-digit revenue growth in recent years, strong penetration in recession-resilient industries, and well-defined business strategies in print, digital and events have helped the Los Angeles, Calif.-based business-to-business media company weather an often-debilitating economic storm.
If advertising trends follow a pendulum model, then we’ve swung quite a ways since the dawn of the decade, when venture capital money was being thrown around like tapioca, just to see where it would stick. Commercials like the famous “herding cats” spot during the 2000 Super Bowl sought to publicize brands by creating a generalized buzz, shooting for the widest possible audience regardless of cost. In today’s distressed economy, advertisers are watching every dollar spent, abetted by the Internet’s ability to take targeted advertising to a whole new level. Lead-generation strategies and measurable data are now top priority, and media companies are responding with a slew of new products designed to lure accounts with the promise of maximum return on investment (ROI).
First-quarter business-to-business trade show revenues declined 20.1% versus one year ago. In the same time period, b-to-b magazine revenues declined 26.1%, generating a combined trade show and magazine decline of 22.9%.
Source: American Business Media’s Business Information Network
For 13 years, I was privileged to serve as an editor at PC World magazine, the last four of which I spent as editor-in-chief. PC World’s success in print and online provided me with resources that most editors would envy. We had a team of more than 50 editors, writers, designers and product testers. Our editorial budget let us devote months to investigative projects when we thought the payoff would be worth it. And, in recent years, as we ramped up our ambitions online, we had a dedicated team of talented Web developers who turned our ideas into reality.
The record-breaking decline in paper consumption has brought prices down with it. In the short term, we can all enjoy the price plunge. But two big questions loom.
Why are we still selling advertising the old way with print-frequency discounts? As modern publishers, we’re selling print, Web, e-mail, events, data and more, and our advertisers are shifting their dollars from print-only to a mix of media. But one look at most of our media kits and it’s obvious we’re stuck in a print-only mentality that only rewards advertisers when they increase their frequency in print.
The Guest Column in this issue should not be taken lightly. Harry McCracken, former editor-in-chief of PC World, writes about his experiences launching Technologizer.com. He left a venerable publication with a huge staff and significant company resources to launch a technology Web site with himself as the only employee. In January, McCracken wrote on his Web site that Technologizer “got 1.7 million page views from 345,000 unique visitors in the past month.”
Why do we read magazines? What is behind the allure of buying, owning and reading magazines? There are, of course, many answers to this question. But if we are truly honest with ourselves, we might be able to turn the tide of our businesses or, at the very least, start a process of self-analysis that leads eventually to psychological and financial recoveries.
Reflecting today’s challenging economic environment, more than half of publishers expect their print advertising revenue to drop this year compared to 2008, according to Publishing Executive’s “2009 Advertising Trends Study,” which was conducted by independent research company Readex Research and included 175 respondents. If there is a silver lining, however, it is the fact that 41 percent say they don’t expect ad revenue from their print publications to decline this year: Almost 20 percent expect an increase, and 22 percent expect that print ad revenue will be flat in ’09.