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Tools of the trade magazine industry

Tools of the trade magazine industry

Tools of the trade magazine industry

Amidst the recent folding of trade titles at Penton Media and Reed Business Information, BoxOffice Magazine recently celebrated its 90th birthday. Although touting longevity amidst turbulent times may seem risky, BoxOffice publisher Peter Cane said the future looks bright.

Indeed, his is not the only trade title to be doing well, Cane said in an e-mail interview. “A friend who publishes a trade magazine in another entertainment sector is having a similar experience,” he said. “The Internet is immediate, and that serves a huge need. But thoughtful, well-written pieces with a beautiful layout that a reader can hold in his or her hands just can’t be duplicated online.”

In fact, several trade titles have recently launched or are launching in the near future including Green Manufacturer, FilmUtah and Specialty Insider, which is slated to debut on Jan. 25 and will target apparel retailers. “A lot of people have told me I’m crazy for launching a magazine right now,” publisher Ralph Erardy told Folio Magazine. “But if you have a good idea, people will listen and if they like it, they’ll buy it. I think the economy is beginning to turn around and I’ve since received a lot of support.”

All magazines took a hit in ad revenue over the last year. In the first quarter of 2009, Folio reported that trade magazine ad pages fell 30.2 percent. Despite this, trade publications appear to have something special: “Unlike consumer magazines, trade magazines are usually supported by an organization – either through advertising dollars put into the print magazine or by a trade association that has funds to pay to print the magazine,” said Rebecca Bredholt, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group. While BoxOffice’s prolonged existence comes from its long history and reputation for being an authority in entertainment, trade publications do have their own advantage, Cane said. “We have a specific audience and we speak their language.”

In a recent blog entry, former Editor & Publisher freelance columnist Steve Outing hypothesized that the magazine’s December closure was based to some extent on its weak utilization of aggregation and reader participation. Expanding on this, he cited the transcript of a speech called “Old Growth Media and the Future of News,” and commented that traditional trade magazines have not adapted to today’s digital world. Be that as it may, Editor & Publisher was revived only two weeks after its demise, proving if a publication is popular enough and has enough loyal readers, it can survive even the most digital of worlds.

The sustainability of trade publications remains to be seen. But as long as there is an audience seeking specific industry information that is not yet available on the Web, trade magazines will continue to launch and print, Bredholt said. “A good trade book can deliver advertisers’ messages in a way that no one else can, to an audience that no one else can reach with one buy,” Cane said. “We have a core group of advertisers who have been with us for decades, and every year many companies either start up or expand into our sector. There is no better storm protection than a reputation for getting results from advertisers.”

— Katrina M. Mendolera

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