December 07, 2012

Do trade magazines have a future?

Under: Business | Marketing | Media | News | Public relations

It’s a good question – and I’m allowed to say so because it’s not mine. The PR company WPR has been mulling it over. Why? Because of changing times, really. In particular, the availability of information online is changing the way we as readers consume it – and that, in turn, is changing business models, notably for local and regional newspapers. (National papers, too, for that matter.)

But what about trade magazines? WPR decided to ask the editors what they thought, and then compiled a white paper about it, which you can read here.

The detail is interesting, but so is the top line, which is, in short, that trade magazine editors are pretty chipper about the future. They don’t see themselves going online-only any time soon; they see two-thirds of their ad revenue coming from print rather than online, even five years from now; and they see the digital revolution as far more of a threat to others than to themselves.

It might be tempting to think these editors are kidding themselves. But I think they have a point. Trade magazines are not like newspapers. They are a source of information for defined groups of people, and so they face less competition than newsprint does from the Big Cloud of Information in the Sky. Also, trade magazines tend to use their websites in ways that complement their print versions: fast-breaking news and reactive comment goes online, keeping the sites fresh and busy, while the print versions carry thoughtful and authoritative feature pieces as well as regular sections.

So if we were to ask ourselves the ‘do they have a future?’ question, and answer ‘yes’, I think it might be based as much on common sense as it is on wishful thinking.


What do you think?

Leave a Reply


  • Tom Leatherbarrow says:

    Thanks for the blog. I think it’s a fascinating area. I think you have summarised the issue well. Whilst trade editors are not blind to the threat they feel more insulated from it in comparison to nationals and regionals. Unquestionably the world of trade magazines will look very different in 10 years time, but the pace of change is slower and many are seeing big benefits from an online presence alongside their print magazines. In short they are embracing it not just raging at it like some of their counterparts in newspaper journalism.

    • Robert says:

      Thanks, Tom. Yes, you’re right: trade magazine editors are finding ways to make print and online outlets complement rather than cannibalise one another.

      All the best,