It’s one thing to stand idly by while we watch the Suburban Shopper go belly up, but quite another when we hear news of BusinessWeek‘s struggles and pending sale. It’s enough to make you take a totally fresh look at the media business, and the PR business.
For as long as I can remember, there have been a few “Holy Grail” publications for PR pros—get coverage in these, and you’ve struck PR gold. These include the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today…and in the magazine category, would include Fortune, Forbes and BusinessWeek.
Just take a look at this graph, which charts ad pages at the three major business news publications I referenced, and tell me that this downward trend doesn’t have publishers, editors and ad reps frightened for their lives:
Since 1999, the number of ad pages the three major business titles booked for the first half of the year has fallen by 64%. In 1999, BusinessWeek, Forbes and Fortune carried 6,193 ad pages in the first six months of the year. In 2009, that number shrank to 2,204. That means it’s likely the final year tally for the three won’t crack 4,500, a benchmark that all three managed to surpass on their own in 1999.
Why the persistent drop for the business bibles? Business-to-business advertisers have found many more efficient, targeted ways to reach their customers. Brand campaigns remain an important component of their marketing, but they’ve also gotten much better at maintaining databases of the crucial decision makers who buy their products or services, focusing on preserving their loyalty and contacting them more or less directly than through a major magazine ad buy.
In other words: direct marketing. No, this doesn’t mean direct-mail postcards and spam e-mail campaigns. It simply means knowing who your audience is, where they work, and where they play…then developing a strategic plan to meet them at the right time, in the right place, with the right message. This doesn’t necessarily mean a migration to social media, though such a campaign might include those tactics. This simply means being more direct, more targeted and more pinpoint in your approach.
By now, publishers have taken note of the evolving trends and shifting information-gathering demographics. The smart marketers will do the same. Sooner than later.