It’s no secret that the trade magazine industry is going through challenging times, there are now an influx of other marketing channels through which marketers can spend their precious budgets, and each new service promises to be the best thing since the yellow pages.
In addition to this many what I call ‘tag along’ medias have popped up, turning an already competitive market place into an overcrowded one, which has led to many medias shamelessly dropping their prices in an attempt to combat this. In this article I aim to discuss how this is affecting the industry, some truths that many marketers may not consider and the true cost of this ‘it costs peanuts’ advertising…. and we all know what you get with those!
That old chestnut….
It’s 10am Monday morning and you have already ‘been out of the office’ for 10 advertising sales calls, by lunch time that’s up to 30 and by the end of the day you’ve lost count and just for added fun you now have to file each of their follow up emails in file no.13. Fighting our way through these is difficult enough, but now in more recent times we have to deal with email subject lines such as ‘Last minute offer for a full page – £100’ Dear Mr Marketer, We’ve had an advertiser pull out at the last minute….. You’d have to be pretty stupid to turn that down right? Especially as the publication goes to 20,000 subscribers and is read by 50,000 in total. Wow, what a bargain!
Before I move on, some quick food for thought for ‘that old chestnut’… The last time I checked, once a PO has been issued and a confirmation sent back, unless the company goes out of business or it’s very far in advance, it is extremely unlikely an advertiser would drop out, so what are the chances of this happening every issue….? Hmmmmm
So how can any other publishers compete with that?
Well, it’s actually quite simple but involves some understanding of how we operate… I’m sure European & American suppliers have come up against similar competition from Asia, and to overcome this manufacturers can confidently say their products are manufactured to higher quality, meet all the right standards, are more reliable, more durable and the support is second to none. In reflection, well-established publishers have years of building up and managing their circulation, which is essentially the most important part of their business, an experienced editor who knows the difference been an advertorial and editorial, a sales manager who understands a rate card, a circulation department, they use high-quality paper & ink, and of course post out to an opted-in well-maintained subscriber database.
Ditch the colouring in book
The most important part of any media company are the readers. The magazine contents HAS to match the reader profile. In our industry our readers are highly technical people, they love to learn and their job is to understand and maintain their process establishments – in the limited time that they already have, would they rather read a magazine with pages of cheap adverts, or a magazine packed with informative, educational and industry-related articles, knowing that the accompanying adverts are relevant and from trustworthy suppliers?
It's a no-brainer.
If they wanted colourful pages to keep them occupied they would simply buy a colouring-in book. To back this up, in our recent reader survey, when asked what, if anything, they would like to read more of, 38% of readers said PII has just the right balance of information, however 41% said they would like more editorial articles – Bearing in mind that PII includes more editorial than any other UK process title, this says it all!
Too many marketing managers think about marketing in their minds and try to cut corners with cheap advertising and ignore the minds of their potential clients, who enjoy learning about new and innovative products, systems & services. I recently had a marketing guy, who had clearly joined straight from university, tell me that he thought magazines were dead because he himself didn't read them anymore. So is this the same viewpoint of a Chartered Chemical Engineer, whose job is to manage a sophisticated processing site – I’ll let you be the judge of that!
According to the number of weekly magazine registrations we receive I beg to differ – if anything it's on the up. For us it’s very clear that engineers still do and will always read magazines – as long as the quality of content is high – after all this then ensures they keep turning the pages.
Only ignorant or inexperienced people will tell you otherwise.
I mentioned earlier ‘Tag-along’ medias. What I mean here, is that they have relatively minimal understanding of the industry, yet a particular sector might be going through a growth period so they ‘tag-along’ for the ride and create a magazine that lasts 5 minutes to make a quick buck.
We’ve seen many magazines come & go through the years, and it's common throughout the publishing world. The one big question that I would always ask to a new media – ‘Where did you get your circulation?' Some of the numbers I hear are ridiculous, anything from 20,000 to 300,000 – in a word it’s bullshit and would take 20 years to build up that kind of database, not 5 minutes. You have to be either stupid, lazy, or very gullible to believe any of these numbers.
And as for emailing data, don’t get me started on that – especially with the new GDPR Directive being introduced in May 2018, in fact it’s another blog post altogether – watch this space!
It’s time for Marketers to wake up and smell the coffee
So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and see if you have ever considered this: Even if a magazine has 100 pages and 50% of those are paid for, if you're paying £100 for a full page, that's a maximum revenue of £5,000.
To post out 10,000 copies costs £5,000
Without wanting to point out the bloody obvious I'm sure you can do the maths – How far do you think your £100 really goes? You could even double this to £200, but do you think the remaining revenue covers design, print, office, wages etc
So unless it’s one man running the business from his dogs kennel hand delivering 20,000 magazines, these figures really don’t stack up!
Of course, medias can make other revenues via their digital services, but to rely on these to support their journals is a dangerous game and I would be very cautious about the quality of their data and how it's managed. The big question to ask yourself, what are you really getting for your £100 and how far does that go? Or do you see this as an opportunity for just a cheap way to mail out, similar to the old postcard packs publishers use to send?
Yes magazine advertising is extremely competitive, however as a marketer you should evaluate the true worth of the magazine. There may be lots of other advertisers from all sides of the engineering spectrum, but is that a good thing when there is little or no content whatsoever?
There are a few reputable magazines left in the market, who I admire and respect and without which would not make us push ourselves to continue to provide the most professional service we can, however when I see other magazines full of cheap advertising knowing full well that they do not reach the numbers they say they do, it's heartbreaking as it’s these medias that will kill the publishing world, and that will be a very sad day indeed.
So, the next time you want to throw away £100 at a full page advert, your office copy might arrive, but if the magazine is landing on more than 3,000 readers desks and being read by more than 20% of them, I’ll change my name to Gimima and start cross-dressing!
What about you?
What are your thoughts on this? Whether you advertise or not, it would be interesting to hear what you think about this. And if you are one of those £100 advertisers do you receive any results from your advertising? Let me know by dropping a comment below: