Good News

By Tonie Auer

Finally, there is some good news to report. MinOnline shared it with us earlier this month when they told us that:

  • Trade publishers are starting to see the bottom of a marked decline in their print and events businesses, according to the latest figures from American Business Media.
  • In the first quarter of this year, ABM found that print revenues had declined only 6.4% to $1.8 billion.
  • On a month-by-month basis, revenue figures improved in the first quarter as well, indicating a positive trajectory. Print revenue in March 2010 was down only 3.1% compared to March 2009.
  • The digital side of the b2b business grew by 7.5% in Q1 2010.

You know what? I totally believe it. The company I work for, Bisnow.com, is all digital with no print product whatsoever. And, we’re growing. The company launched e-newsletters covering commercial real estate in Dallas/Fort Worth in October; Houston in December; Atlanta this spring; and L.A. about a month ago. There is no doubting that digital products are in demand by the evolving fast-paced society in which we live. The trick revolves around keeping up with the changes.

When One Door Closes …

By Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President

Like most aspiring writers (of something beyond the B2B publications), I strive to read quality work. I try to change things up a bit, moving from suspense writers like Deborah Crombie to the snarky memorist Jen Lancaster.

I’ve read many books about writing techniques and I’m even a member of the Writers’ Guild of Texas, which brings in great speakers to talk about the craft of writing. All of this greatly improves my writing skills overall, so it is beneficial all the way around.

I subscribed for a year or two to Writer’s Digest, but found that I never took the time to read it. Fortunately, I saved the magazines and ran across them recently and started reading them. Writing tips are timeless (for the most part), so why not? What I found in the pages went beyond the traditional tips on creating good characters and addressed topics facing the B2B publishing industry, too.

I pulled out one issue from 2007 that included query tips from editors of three consumer publications. Of the three magazines, two are now defunct. (Sort of timely considering all the closing publications across the magazine world.) Flipping through another 2007 issue, I ran across an article titled “The Incredible Disappearing Magazine.” The advice seems very timely, as it talks about what freelancers should do if one of their pubs shutters.

After from getting stiffed a check (most likely), now you have to find another revenue stream. The article’s author, Lou Harry, recommended going straightaway to the publication’s competition. Pretty good advice if you’ve already been writing about a topic or industry. But, with the shrinking world of publications and the increasing pool of writers, you need to make sure that you play up your strong points. Also, stay in touch with the editors who know and love your writing already. I’ve gotten several jobs in the past from editors who have jumped ship. Often, they’ve been gracious enough to leave my name with the editors who replace them as they change jobs, too.

After the Reed announcements recently, you could practically hear the sales departments at competing publishers (like McGraw-Hill) salivating at the opportunities to lure those advertisers to their pubs, too. So, it can be doubly beneficial for some competitors.

So, I suppose the blog title comes into play here. When you find that one door closes (literally, as magazines fold), find your way to another door. You may be able to get your foot in there with a little effort. Then, hopefully, it will open. But, you’ll never know if you don’t go knock.

Far-Reaching Impact of Reed Closings

By Nikki Golden

That sound you heard April 16 was the clicking sound of a Domino display being set into motion. The closure of the 23 magazines by Reed Business Information will impact a lot more than the lives of the now 324 talented people now out of work. There will be residual effects that we have not even imagined as of yet.

As cliché as it sounds, there is a symbiotic relationship between B2B publications and the industries they cover. These industries look to B2B pubs to be on top of trends, products, research and most of all, guidance when making decisions that impact their businesses. Isn’t that what most B2B pubs tout in their media kits?

So what’s the message that’s sent when a publisher just up and closes 23 titles and closes down the affiliated trade shows and supplements and takes down the Web sites? Many of these publications were Azbee award-winners, Neal award-winners and finalists. Several of these publications were ASBPE Magazine of the Year award-winners. There is a sense of awe with which the rest of us regard many of these great titles — industry-leading publications in their respective markets.

It is true that the B2B landscape is changing, and we need to change with it, but there’s a dangerous precedent that’s been sent and a very negative message — one that breaks up the relationship between B2B and industries. Partnership opportunities might dry up because companies, associations and the like are reluctant to be stuck holding the ball.

And none of this is taking into account the loss of institutional knowledge that the departure of many of these editors, many of whom have spent lifetimes covering the same industry, leaves behind.

Yesterday news came that a new publishing company was formed to purchase the Supply Chain titles: Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, Supply Chain Management Review and Material Handling Product News. There’s talk that more of these companies might be formed to purchase the intellectual property and restart the titles — and I hope that proves true.

But for the time being, join me in a moment of silence for the 19 titles still RIP:

Building Design+Construction
Chain Leader
Construction Bulletin
Construction Equipment
Consulting-Specifying Engineer *
Control Engineering *
Converting
Foodservice Equipment & Supplies
Graphic Arts Blue Book
Graphic Arts Monthly
HOTELS
Plant Engineering *
Professional Builder
Professional Remodeler
Purchasing
Restaurant & Institutions (an Azbee Magazine of the Year winner)
Semiconductor International
Spec Check,
Tradeshow Weekly

And to our colleagues who are now examining what the next step in their career path will be, we want you to make sure you update your information on the ASBPE Web site, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and know that your talents are needed elsewhere — and we’re going to help you find that next place.

* Update: On April 30, Folio: reported that two former RBI publishers, who formed CFE Media LLC, are buying three Reed titles: Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering. We will keep you updated as more of these assets get purchased.

Nikki Golden is the president of ASBPE’s Chicago chapter and communications manager of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, where she oversees the magazine The Remodelers’ Journal. She is a former Reed Business Information employee.

RIP Reed Titles

By Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President

By now, we’ve all heard the news about Reed Elsevier shuttering 23 B2B pubs. I don’t think anyone is all that shocked any more. But, what does this mean for B2B publishing? Folio has its take and former ASBPE president, current TABPI president and editorial director of Hotel & Motel Management magazine Paul Heney has his:

“I think that this is one more indication that the b2b publishing world is moving away from being dominated by a few enormous entities. Our future lies more with smaller companies that truly love and believe in the niche(s) that they serve. Many of the Reeds of the world became little more than faceless earning machines for venture capitalists. Now the pendulum is swinging back toward favoring individuals who are passionate about mining or pharmaceuticals or engineering. This also serves to remind each one of us that a brand may be 40 or 50 or 60 years old, but nothing is too big to fail if editors, publishers and salespeople ignore the shifts in media habits — both on the reader and the advertiser — that we’re seeing today.”

Fortunately a few titles have been saved and maybe some others will be resurrected as well. Time will tell.

Sound Off Now About Daunting Editorial Workload

By Howard Rauch

Ask any editor about their current workload and you’re sure to get an earful. Tales of woe usually focus on the unfairness of triple-threat job descriptions involving print, web and digital publications. Individuals are quick to add that job descriptions have expanded in the face of staff cuts and salary freezes.

The truth is … nobody (yes, that includes top management) is happy about the situation. Further, the publishing industry is not alone in being walloped by the economy. The typical editor’s problem in making the case for relief is an inability to describe existing job functions quantitatively. In other words, how long does each facet of your job take to complete from start to finish in a given month?

This is no easy task. Different functions of a typical editorial job load may be spread out across several days into small time components. Melding the parts into a whole is challenging, to say the least.

Well … we really can’t wait any longer. A time-oriented performance study is long overdue. So I’ve decided to give it a shot. The objective of this study is not to bemoan our circumstances. Instead, we need to seek possible shortcuts that will speed job fulfillment. And I am inviting you to participate in a two-phase study that’s just begun.

Phase I involves completion of a questionnaire asking you to analyze your work schedule. Most of the 15 questions are easily answered. Others will require that you put on your thinking cap. For example, question (7) asks you – on the basis of 100 percent – to estimate the time component breakdown for print vs. web. Question (8) challenges you to create a multicategory job description for the web portion. In a preliminary meeting between me and ASBPE webmaster Martha Spizziri, we came up with a dozen possible categories. Now we’re interested in comparing notes with you. Question (11) is the toughest to tackle. Here is where you prioritize the list created in question (9) from most time-consuming down to least time-consuming. If you’re up to the challenge, we can work through the questionnaire together. Later on, in Phase II of the study, we’d have a follow-up interview to make sure everything’s been covered.

Here are other things you ought to know about this pioneer project:

(1) The results will be presented June 17 at an ASBPE webinar I am cohosting with fellow consultant John Bethune.

(2) Survey participants will receive a special tailored summary of study results.

Interested? For more information or to receive a copy of the questionnaire, call me at (201) 569-7714 or e-mail howard@editsol.com.

Predictions for B2B Publishing in 2010: They Ain’t Pretty

Photo: Tonie AuerBy Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President

Yes, 2010 has rolled around and in keeping with my traditions, I’m still writing 2009 on my checks and wondering what this year will hold for the B2B publishing industry. Instead of being ahead of the game and asking for responses from people a month ago, I thought about it today when I was thinking of this blog post. Uh, ok. My trend of procrastinating will definitely continue into 2010, unfortunately.

However, I did find where <a href="http://www.foliomag.com/2009/115-magazine-and-media-predictions-2010&quot; target="
_blank”>Folio and Joe Pulizzi were on the ball and quizzed industry experts for their take on things. Go give ’em a quick look. I wish the outlook was brighter, but there are a few silver linings in there.

Paper Looks Different Today

By Paul Miller

I spent my Sunday afternoon going through a ton of old magazines, conference brochures and other 8-1/2″ x 11″ printed materials I’d been filing on some bookshelves of my home office. It was the first time I’d purged myself of stuff like this in four years and I only hope the recycle collector has enough room on his truck for it all.

Funny thing about this process though. I found myself looking at all this paper differently than ever before. Even though I’m constantly tossing newspapers into the recycle bin, the enormous stacks of magazines I got rid of really made me feel like I was unloading what’s becoming a bygone era. I almost felt like I was throwing out old phonographs or 8-track tape players.

As I prepare to leave my job of the past 3-3/4 years once it’s terminated next week, I’ve come to the realization that as chief editor for a national business publication in charge of every letter and image that’s printed and posted on our Website and e-newsletters, about 95 percent of the files I kept throughout my tenure were on my computer. I threw out almost all my file folders because most of them I had inherited from my predecessor. And they’re pretty useless now.

Having grown up with so much print all around me, I feel like we’re really smack dab in the middle of a major transformation from print to digital. Because my wife, Donna, does a lot of catalog and online shopping, we still get plenty of catalogs. And catalogs are far from dead yet. So are magazines. Like I said, we’re right in the middle of this shift.

It’s hard to say how soon we’ll move toward the end of this transformation, but I just found it a bit eerie today, because it really began to sink in that the shift is taking place for real now. The reality is, I believe the message that people like Al Gore have been preaching for years is starting to sink in on people in a subtle sort of way. Perhaps it was accelerated a bit by the recession or the rising cost of mailing printed publications like magazines and catalogs.

Hard to say, but it’s happening.

Paul Miller has held the dual role of editor-in-chief of All About ROI magazine (formerly Catalog Success) and editorial director of eMarketing and Commerce since early 2006. Due to the down economy, however, parent company North American Publishing Co. recently decided to eliminate both positions, effective Dec. 1, so Paul is seeking new opportunities. You can reach him at p914m@aol.com.

With Gourmet Gone, You Know There’s a Recession

By Thomas Temin

If General Motors and Lehman Brothers can bite the dust, why not Gourmet magazine, for so many decades the Bible of chefs and foodies alike? A Wall Street Journal story on Oct. 6 noted that being reviewed in Gourmet could make a chef’s reputation.

Also out the door is Modern Bride, for a while some years ago part of the Cahners stable. The late Cele Lalli was the editor then, and at the editors’ meetings – back when they still had chief editors gatherings in nice resorts or conference centers – she was always a joy to hang out with. Maybe it was the fact she had earlier been editor of Amazing Stories that made Cele so cool and unpretentious.

In those days, Modern Bride might have been chasing Brides – which Conde Nast will continue publishing – but there was advertising enough that they could both have 600-page issues. Those of us in the electronics and engineering magazines would be gaga at the amount of advertising carried in such a seemingly frivolous topic as wedding planning. Cele used to say that readers would continue their subscriptions for six months or a year after getting married.

But even the bosses at Conde Nast must have been dreaming to think that they could publish both Brides and Modern Bride (and Elegant Bride to boot) and sell some differentiating story to advertisers. The acquisition of competitors under a single roof – has there ever been a successful stunt like that where both survive long term? Certainly not in a market where, as in so many markets, ad pages are dropping 25 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent.

Conde, like other publishers, is focusing ever more resources on digital products. In a market like bridal fashion, planning and accessories, the digital possibilities are rich, for sure. Brides.com has all sorts of online toys, such as the fun, if somewhat useless, Create a Cake to full-scale financial and party planning tools for the Big Day. Where else but in a bridal blog might you find out about a new necktie for “hubby” from Thomas Pink that incorporates an i-Pod pocket?

But I suspect this is a market where there will always be at least one dominant print product. Print is still the best way to display the gorgeous wedding gowns and resort destinations, and where a reader can fantasize about her wedding day while lying across the bed instead of sitting at a desk.

Thomas R. Temin is a consultant with 30 years of publishing experience in media and information technology products and services. He is co-host of “The Federal Drive” with Tom Temin and Jane Norris, a weekday morning news and talk program on Federal News Radio AM 1050 in Washington D.C. You can see his weekly column on the op-ed page at www.federalnewsradio.com and contact him at tom.temin@gmail.com.

Staying Positive in Tough Times

By Elena Gontar

The recession continues and, for some firms, things are not getting better. Most recently, I have been let go from my position as a news writer and editor for one of the leading commercial real estate publications. After 22 years of successful run, the product is rebranding and due to drastic budget cuts, most of the staff had to go.

After eight years with the publication, I was almost positive that the recession was not going to affect me or the product. But it did.

The announcement came in the wake of a bulk of bad news in the industry. And when I think about everything that’s been going on, I fear more difficult times are ahead. While still on staff, I covered daily news, and was amazed to see how many firms went bankrupt or had to close down.

Just a little over two months ago – in April – two major firms in the industry had been forced to say uncle in bankruptcy court. Mall owner and operator General Growth Properties Inc. filed for Chapter 11 protection in United States Bankruptcy Code. Moreover, nearly 158 regional shopping centers owned by the firm also filed for bankruptcy protection. A few days after the announcement, the firm said that certain additional subsidiaries, including eight regional shopping centers, were also seeking relief under Chapter 11 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. And just days after GGP’s bankruptcy announcement, Opus South Corp., one of the divisions of Opus Corp., also filed for Chapter 11.

Is the recent spate of bankruptcies just the tip of the iceberg? As the economy continues its sluggish performance and credit markets remain frozen, will the industry see a rash of bankruptcy filings?

And as the difficult economic times continue, the unemployment rate keeps on the increase. At a time of aggressive store closings, shrinking sales and bankruptcies, it is not easy to stay positive. But I, for one, have no other choice. I always say: Whatever happens is for the best and while one door closes, the other door opens. Right?

In the meantime, during my second week of being unemployed I still can’t help but search the wires for real estate news. It’s a habit that I won’t be able to break for a long time.

So, yes, life can be unfair and at times difficult, but feeling depressed isn’t going to help. My advice to those who are in the same situation as I am at the moment is to stay positive and look on the bright side. Get motivated and something good is bound to happen.

Elena Gontar is a real estate writer in Brooklyn. She can be reached at elenagontar@gmail.com.

B2B Writing in a Crummy Economy

Photo: Tonie AuerBy Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President

Just last week I was part of a conference call informing me that the publication I’ve been writing for since October 2005 has virtually eliminated all of its editorial staff. Now, what had been handled by more than a dozen staff writers and editors along with a stable of freelancers is down to two editors and three freelancers.

I managed to dodge the bullet – again. This was the second round of layoffs since October. A few months ago, several editors I’ve worked with since 2001 were laid off, as well. And, just a few weeks ago, a regional business journal eliminated its staff and expanded the duties for existing editorial staff at a sister publication.

I’m wondering how thin can editorial staffs be stretched before the end-product is done irreparable harm. There are only so many hours in the day to complete the work. Yes, most of these publications are cutting back and the issues are much thinner than they’ve ever been. At what point will readers simply say, why bother?

In a time when we’re all competing for the all-mighty dollar, what will keep these readers from deciding their subscription money is better used in some other fashion? We’re already seeing this when it comes to various meetings. I, for one, have cut back on my professional development to save a few bucks.

What are editorial staffs doing with reduced manpower, fewer trips to trade shows and smaller budgets to continue putting out quality products that readers want to read? To borrow a phrase, inquiring minds want to know. If you have a few comments, feel free to post them here. If you have advice to share and want to create a blog post, email me at tonieauer@gmail.com. B2B publishing plays an important role in helping those industries we support and I don’t want to see it become another casualty of this economy.