Ward to the Wise

The Trade Press – A Fight For Relevancy

The Fight For RelevancyAccording to a recent analysis by Pew Research Center, total revenue supporting American journalism has declined by one-third since 2006. The sources of the estimated $63-$65 billion dollars supporting print, online and broadcast news have also shifted, with advertising dollars declining and audience payments, in the form of subscriptions, for example, comprising a bigger share of revenue.

Trade magazines, along with every other print publication, have found themselves at a crossroads. As digital marketing strategies and online content-sharing platforms have exploded, print publications have seen their circulation, traditional revenue streams and staff resources steadily decrease. For example, in the early 2000s most trade publications had a robust and strong editorial staff that comprised a journalist for every beat. Fourteen years later, it is common to now see 5-6 full-time staff on their roster and a long list of contributing authors…aka, freelancers.

While the trade press likes to keep operating in the traditional way, monthly, printed information doesn’t resonate the same way it used to with today’s readers. The demand for immediate, quickly consumable information is great, and thanks to the Internet, readers can find whatever information they are looking for easily.

To retain their value with an established readership, remain relevant and stay ahead of new competing information sources, trade publications are incorporating new ways to educate, engage and grow their audiences. Public relations specialists, whether in-house or agency, must take heed of the following three evolving trends when working with their trade media counterparts.

1. Contributed Content
Trade publications still need to deliver great content, but they don’t have the staff in place to do it all themselves. As a result, we are experiencing an ever-growing need for reputable, contributing authors that are experts in their own right. A shrinking staff pool, coupled with increased deadline demands, means these publication editors are less interested in being pitched a source by which to interview for a story…they often want the source to write the story NOW.

This provides a great opportunity for corporate communications professionals, PR firms and freelancers to get their brand names out and build awareness and preference in the industry of their choice.

The challenge, of course, is to provide suitable content to the publication, a skill the subject matter expert may not have, or a time-consuming task that may not be the best use of this expert’s time. The PR practitioner today must be prepared to provide support and project management to not only create the publishing opportunity, but to do the job the publication once did. This, of course, affects budget planning for PR efforts as the role has expanded in recent years.

2. Conferences
Per the Pew Research study, non-traditional revenue, such as event hosting has quadrupled as publishers search for new revenue generation and ways to retain their core audiences. This came as no surprise to us at Ward, as the publishing houses we’ve long pitched for editorial, have turned to us many times over recent years to attract attendance to their niche audience events.

By offering educational conferences, trade publications can still drive industry expertise and spotlight real-life knowledge delivered by experts in their field. This allows the publication to stay on top of industry trends, dive deeper into the knowledge for their readers and present it, just as they always have….but in a different format. Conferences also allow trade publications to create relevant and sharable content that can be distributed in real-time over social media to those interested parties unable to attend an event.

Your subject matter expert’s participation at their events could be the perfect fit live, in print and over social media, thereby strengthening the trade publication’s relationship with its audience and your company. Increasingly, our clients turn to us to book their speakers on the many emerging platforms, and to leverage that speaker role into published content, whether earned media, purchased media or owned media in social and company platforms.

3. Converging Mediums
It’s not news to anyone that print and digital worlds continue to converge. While print is still dominant in trade magazine publishing, it is becoming mandatory that a digital version exist so that breaking news and timely topics are not at the mercy of long lead-times. No one wants yesterday’s news, so there is a strong focus on ensuring print and digital versions of a publication’s content exist and complement each other. And, in our now on-demand-world, audiences expect to be able to mine a topic via archived content whenever it’s important to them, so your most interested target audiences are more likely to consume your messages even if they missed a monthly issue. Good news for PR departments.

Editors must also cater to audiences looking for social media interaction, 30-second video clips and other quick-to-consume digital content. All the while, digital publishing revenue models are changing, consumption patterns continue to morph, and the amount of available, relevant and impactful content, is ever more overwhelming. All of these factors come into play as trade publications adapt to profitably re-invent themselves and gain new markets and new market share.

You can take advantage of these exciting changes and work with trade publication editors to make it easier on then to deliver the digital content they need by offering different content and visual formats. For example, can the data within your article be turned into an infographic, a video series or even a webinar? For most readers seeing IS believing. Talk to the publication about their current digital marketing strategy and see how your print content can be formatted to complement and meet those needs.

In sum, trade publications are not dying. They are evolving and remain a great resource for providing information to very specific industries and decision makers. While they are trying hard to provide useful information every single way that their audience consumes it, it doesn’t mean every publication will use every type of content delivery method. Eventually each publication will figure out what format works best for their particular audience whether it be a combination of print, digital, hosted events, multimedia, etc.

Do you need help devising an effective strategy to guide you though the changing landscape of the current trade media environment to ensure your message is being heard by the people who matter most? Contact Ward to develop a trade industry media relations strategy to cause your intended results.

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