The quick and the read: why trade media’s print days are numbered

What were we saying about trade media and print?

According to the

United Business Media,
publisher of Music Week and Information Week, is focusing investment this year
on trade shows and online ventures as it lessens its dependence on print. In
first-half results published yesterday, UBM said turnover from printed products
shrank 4% while its events and online business reported double-digit growth. "We
are not in any way fixated against print," said David Levin, UBM’s chief
executive, "but the trend of revenues is against it." UBM, which has spent £135m
on acquisitions this year, said first-half revenues grew 25% to

As a sector of publishing, trade titles are where print is weakest as a
medium and that there is the most dramatic threat and opportunity from online
comes to existing players.

They are vulnerable for many reasons – they often serve sectors and audience
niches that may be better able to serve themselves via online communities. Some
depend on classified job ads for a great deal of their revenue (a business which
is easily distintermediated by the web) and their legacy infrastructure, their
commitments to print based business models can make it hard for them to move
quickly enough to take advantage of the fast-evolving online media world.

New models of online media, social media, always seem to move fastest in
areas where people feel inadequately served. I would say that unless UK trade
titles are engaged with and know that they are serving their markets
well they should be on alert: move quickly, make sure you are really being read
– or you may be swept aside by low-cost grass-roots alternatives.

UBM is benefiting from networks and new media models in other parts of its
business, for instance PR Newswire
which is getting more as a result of people seeing the – perhaps short-lived –
benefits of its distribution network for search engine optimisation efforts.

However, when it comes to its trade titles – like Farmers Guardian, Property Week and Music Week – it is facing the same dilemmas
as everyone else: how to live in an age of networks with niche content.
Pay-walling content is going to make you less useful to the network – but can
they bring themselves to give it away? Can they mae the move to a business model that could support that move quickly enough? It is possible but it would take some imaginaton and iron will.

By Antony Mayfield

I'm Antony Mayfield - to find out more about me take a look at my LinkedIn profile (see the button on the home page). You can contact me by email at antony [dot] mayfield [at] gmail [dot] com. Google