Masthead: The number of b-to-b launches in 2007—five—is a record low. How do we account for this? Aren't companies just investing money elsewhere: shows, websites, newsletters, etc.?
Canadian Business Press president Philip J. Boyd.
Boyd: While the number of new market niches may be limited, my sense is that most publishers of specialized business magazines are preoccupied with capitalizing on brand extensions in the electronic arena. As we have seen in the U.S., brand extensions, whether they be trade shows, conferences, newsletters or electronic, now represent as much as 50% of a publication’s revenue because that is where advertisers are currently investing increased amounts of their budgets.
Has it become too difficult for small- to mid-sized publishers to launch new magazines to compete against giant conglomerates like CLB Media, Business Information Group, Annex and Rogers Publishing? Is consolidation the problem?
Being successful in small niche b-to-b markets is driven by publishers and editors who are regarded as major contributors to the success of the business sectors they serve by the people within those communities. You don’t have to work for a large publisher to gain the respect of a specialized business community. Access to the latest circulation or electronic production technology is available to all, big or small.
Of the "big four", only CLB launched magazines in 2007, while Rogers, Annex and BIG acquired titles. Maybe there's just not that many trade sectors left to be serviced.
I think you have to look at each of the larger companies independently as their strategies for growth appear to differ. There may well be opportunities for new print products, but the cost of entry is climbing and new magazines without an electronic component and other brand extensions may find it difficult to survive in the long term.
What else is hurting trade mags right now? Mailing costs? Printing costs? Lack of circulation revenue? Lack of subsidies? What can be done to revive this sector?
The biggest handicap in terms of startups and the principal reason why the number of business and professional publications dropped is the high cost of postage. Since controlled circulation publications lost government postal assistance in 1991, specialized business publishers did their best to adapt by reducing circulation levels and trimming the physical size of their publications. In the early years of this decade, several publications tested alternate methods of delivery, but few were able to secure the reliability and quality of service provided by Canada Post.
The challenge is that the controlled circulation model most specialized business publications employ does not receive assistance from the Publications Assistance Program (PAP). We need to encourage publishers to adopt the request circulation model, which is supported by PAP.
Hopefully, the current review of the Publications Assistance Program and the Canada Magazine Fund by Canadian Heritage will identify this challenge and recommend assistance to encourage publishers to convert to the request model. Ultimately, Canadian business people and professionals are the major beneficiaries of PAP support of the Canadian specialized business-publishing sector.