Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Keeping Print Afloat

Keeping Print Afloat
By Marie Griffin
B-to-b publishers have gotten used to the idea of advertising dollars migrating to the Web, but none wants to see vast sums of money moving out of print. As the economy becomes less certain, though, b-to-b publishers are aware that advertisers could make sudden shifts in strategy and budgets.

"Online will take care of itself," said Alan Robinson, group publisher of Reed Business Information's EDN. "We can hardly keep up with the demand. When you're talking about print, though, you have to ask yourself how it's going to survive."
There's no foolproof way to prevent a rush of revenue out of print, but some publishers are being more proactive than others, making sure their sales and marketing teams are consistently reinforcing print's value within the advertising mix.

Robinson and his team are using two strategies to keep Reed Business' electronics flagship, EDN, viable in print. First, they invest in content that lends itself well to the print medium. Second, they provide advertisers with research to prove it matters.

"Our approach really calls for print execution," he said. "EDN is written by electronics engineers. The editorial is in-depth and solutions-oriented, and it delves into the complex issues engineers must design around today. This type of information is hard to absorb on the Web."

EDN's research backs up the common wisdom that businesspeople use print early in the buying cycle. "Our team is going around with the readership study to explain to buyers that key decisions are being made early in the design process. That's when engineers turn to peers and trade journals," Robinson said.

At e.Republic, Exec VP Don Pearson and his team don't try to protect their print advertising. Instead, they build print components into integrated, multimedia programs.

"In this day and age, there really is a glut of information on the Web," Pearson said. "If you want to drive traffic to your online assets, either on your own site or on our site, you still need to grab people's attention. An e-newsletter is one tactic, but print is another element."

For e.Republic's 3-year-old Digital Communities quarterly publication, Web site and events, Pearson created a set of tiered, multimedia sponsorship packages at three different spending levels. All include print, online, live events and custom publishing. "The print ads are not closing the program, but advertisers are going for the comprehensive value proposition that is designed to produce results," he said.

Gary Rubin, chief publishing and e-media officer at the Society for Human Resource Management, uses words like luxurious and pleasurable to describe the experience he wants readers to get from HR Magazine, and he insists this direction makes good business sense.

Although some advertisers are pulling away from print to buy more online advertising, "I still have a $10 million-plus magazine, and it's a good, profitable business," Rubin said.

"I'm creating this luxurious reading environment-with thought-provoking stories, pull-out quotes, great photographs and illustrations-so that the magazine has a larger, more engaged audience," he explained. "And advertisers follow readers."

Like Robinson, Rubin makes sure to back up his beliefs with hard evidence. "We commission a third-party readership study every two years," he said. "By almost a four-to-one ratio, people prefer reading our magazine as compared to the next largest competitor."


Co-manufacturing Takes Shape
By Mark J. Miller
Production executives are in a constant search for ways to save money. In recent years, the sharing of different parts of the production and distribution chain with other publishers and other titles has helped ease the financial burden. First, there was co-palletization and co-mailing. Then there was co-binding, and now co-manufacturing has entered the publishing world's lexicon.

The term has been bandied about for nearly a year by printing and magazine manufacturing executives, and the concept can take a variety of forms. One saved Reed Business Information $15,000 in three months during a test the company ran on 24 of its titles.

Reed moved some of its monthlies to Fry Communications where it already had several of its titles printed. The idea was to build a large enough mass to make creating an internal mailing pool of just Reed publications cost-effective.

Reed standardized the paper and trim size for all 24 titles. Then, to be as efficient as possible, it loaded all the titles into a single print line to run basically one right on top of another.

"We wanted to take a look at what would happen if we printed our monthlies there at the same time and created co-print pools essentially," said Paula Gordon, Reed's director of manufacturing. The company's test ran from September to the end of December.

Each week, Reed created different test pools. Tuesdays and Thursdays are big print days for its monthlies, so production executives would constantly be looking at how many titles it could close on those days in order to be part of that week's mailing group.

Gordon said Reed locked out publications that failed to close on schedule. "We would just automatically knock some out that didn't adhere to the schedule," she said. "We're keeping close track of what we're actually saving with the books we pool and what we could have saved if those other titles had closed on time."

Noting Reed's savings in the first three months of the test, Gordon said, "In 2008, more magazines will be included, and we're thinking of co-binding some of those titles and then co-mailing. So we're taking it to the next `co-level.' "

Gordon added that it would have been easier to start with weeklies, but the titles were too spread out in terms of geography.

"As postage goes up and paper goes up, more and more money-saving partnerships will occur between publishers and printers," she said. "Big, little-it doesn't matter; we all want to save money."

Alan D. Snyder, prepress operations manager at Fry, said most experiments like this come directly out of specific money-saving conversations with clients and trying to find ways to maximize their spending with the printer. "Publishers used to have a lot of say in what they printed on, and that power is tightening up, I'm sure," he said. "They can't be liberal about their sizes, and texture and that sort of thing [anymore]."

Among the services that Fry offers is selective co-binding, in which titles run simultaneously on the press and the printer selectively binds different titles in different ways. This saves a publisher money in make-ready costs.

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