TRADE PUBS: Rumors of Their Demise are Greatly Exaggerated

How many times in the last year have you heard the mantra that “print is dead – and magazines are dying”? If you’re like me, it’s too many to count. Certainly, newspapers and news magazines are hemorrhaging people and profits at an unprecedented pace, and there’s no obvious cure in sight. The recent deaths of media outlets like Newsweek and the New Orleans Times-Picayune in their traditional (print) forms were chilling developments, ones which would have been almost unthinkable just a few years ago. But that’s the cold, hard media landscape we’re living in.

There is at least one category of magazines where things aren’t all gloom and doom, however: trade publications. For our clients in industries like materials handling, water technology and manufacturing, trade magazines remain excellent message delivery vehicles, in both their printed and various online formats. To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.

So why are non-household names like Assembly, Modern Materials Handling and Food Logistics flourishing while brands like Newsweek and The Sporting News magazine going under? It has everything to do with specialization, says BNP Media’s Tom Esposito, publisher of Assembly magazine.

“General news information, like that in newspapers and news magazines, is more widely and instantly available than ever before,” he notes. “Media outlets in those categories – or any broad-interest category – are facing competition from all over, including social media, bloggers, online-only media and broadcast-based multimedia brands like CNN.  Trade media, on the other hand, is very narrow in scope and, by nature, more detailed in its reporting and analysis. It is harder to replace.”

Brian Ceraolo of Peerless Media Group (publishers of Modern Materials Handling, Logistics Business and several related publications) agrees. “We serve a very select, very highly engaged audience,” he says. “Our editorial staff must have deeper industry knowledge bases than reporters at general news outlets could possibly have. That’s a key reason that we grew 24 percent last year.”

Our clients’ results bear out this relevance. In fact, one of them (Zoneworks) just reported that sales in 2012 (in which they began their first trade campaign) roughly doubled 2011. That’s hard to argue with.

While all of these pubs have strong and growing online components, their bread-and-butter remains the print edition. Will that change as print-oriented Boomers transition out of the workforce? Possibly. But, either way, its unlikely that trade pubs will lose their mojo anytime soon.