February 10, 2012
/ by Rebecca Bredholt
Trade magazines are simultaneously thankful for digital printing options and hurt by them. The cost of publishing has been too high for many and so they’ve taken their industry news online, either to their own website or a host site like Issuu.com. There, magazines can upload a PDF version and if readers want to buy a copy, they can pay to print on demand.
Most of the changes to trade magazines that we’ve seen over the last two years have been a conversion from print magazines to digital magazines or e-newsletters and website content. There were 12 online titles covering trade/industry that launched in 2011, and 12 that folded. Trade/industry titles only represent about 25 percent of all magazines in the Vocus Media Database, while consumer takes up about 60 percent.
ACE Certified News, published by The American Council on Exercise, covers news for fitness professionals. The bimonthly print publication was replaced by a digital magazine, or rather a collection of four or five articles paired with images, that gets posted to its website 12 times a year.
Some titles are changing their focus to adapt to a changing reality. HGTVPro.com used to be an online magazine catering to construction and remodeling professionals. When the construction industry took a huge hit due to the economic turndown, the site went on hiatus. Now, it has re-launched as HGTVremodels.com – a smart move since do-it-yourself content is a hot topic. People who have lost jobs and even those who were able to hold on to them can’t always hire a professional to fix things up. The content on the newly re-launched site, which also gets emailed out to subscribers, recently provided tips on how to replace kitchen cabinets.
Emailing content to subscribers has actually become a successful trend among trade magazine brands. But not all titles are able to find ways to stay relevant. Featuring education and reviews about products in the insurance industry, the monthly U.S. Insurance News, with about 147,000 readers, went online-only and became Cyberinsurancenews.com in 2009. About 14 months later, it went out of business, having never tried the email-to-subscribers route. While getting rid of printing costs by going online, it didn’t eliminate its need to adapt to an evolving information distribution landscape, nor the need to fund the distribution of industry news.
A trend among the surviving digital titles is going from a monthly print publication to a weekly digital magazine or e-newsletter, such as NAFSA: The Association of International Educators, which went from being a print trade magazine to a weekly online newsletter. The biotechnology publication BIOtech Now (formerly BIO News) also changed from a monthly print magazine to an online weekly. As BtoBonline.com has mentioned, it’s a relatively inexpensive marketing approach as well.
Going online-only isn’t a cure-all plan for business-to-business publishers. The best way surviving titles have found to stay relevant is to keep pace with how and where readers are consuming their news – or find new readers.
— Rebecca Bredholt
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