Back in the 1990s I contract-edited a customer magazine for a technical software company, which had twice the circulation of any magazine from a ‘proper’ publisher that the company might have wanted to advertise in. The company pushed out a widely-read publication to 50,000 prospects for the cost of maybe a dozen pages of advertising across commercial titles. The justification for the investment was really easy, in terms of directly-attributable sales and enquiries. Indeed, had the company known how successful its magazine would be, I think it might have bought a list of readers and got into the business earlier, rather than spending several years building up a circulation.
I never understood why more companies didn’t do this. I worked on at least one commercial title, just about breaking even, which could have been bought for less than what many of its major advertisers were spending on it each year. Why didn’t they just buy the magazine?
Twenty-five years later, by which time I (incorrectly) thought that trade magazines would be dead, this has been happening. Earlier this year computer manufacturer Raspberry Pi, wanting to encourage the hobby computer and electronics market, bought Custom PC and Digital SLR Photography from Dennis Publishing. On an even bigger scale, Arrow Electronics in the USA has bought many of the world’s best-known electronics titles, which it publishes under its arms-length AspenCore subsidiary.
I’d argue that the potential of independent industry publications and websites today may be even more valuable to manufacturers than it was in the past. Some online properties are sitting on fantastic Google rankings and visitor numbers, yet they’re unable to convert those into sustainable income. I’m not suggesting that you persuade your senior management to rush out and buy a website or magazine today, but profits are spread very thinly, and you might be surprised at the innovative collaborations and arrangements available to creative marketing departments.