Finding clarity through the fog

We learned last week that building industry publication, Building Products is to cease operation from the end of February. For any PR practitioner working in the sector since the magazine was established almost 40 years ago, it is a title that will have featured prominently in their programme planning and would have contributed favourably to many an end of year review.

So why has it’s publisher decided to call time on such a prominent feature of the building publications’ landscape?

The obvious answer is that it mustn’t be making money or at least enough of it to make it worthwhile continuing. Nor must there be a view that there is potential to revive its fortunes if it was revamped in some way.

All this points to the fact that advertising revenues aren’t enough to sustain the publication. No rocket science needed to work that one out.

Looking at other publications in the sector, it would appear from an outsider’s perspective that Building Products isn’t alone in finding it tough to generate revenue. The august title that is Building magazine would also appear to be struggling to find advertisers, judging by the current thickness (or thinness) of the journal.

Against this ‘evidence’ of reduced ad spend, it should be noted that some ‘lesser’ titles seem to be still going strong, filled with advertising and carrying the ‘news’ that may once have filled the pages of Building Products.

So what’s going on? Well, it’s difficult to know precisely, but most likely it’s a combination of a few things.

Overall, advertising spend has undoubtedly not recovered to its pre-recession levels. As well as print media, marketers now have a plethora of digital options. Website versions of printed titles are virtually a prerequisite for publishers, as well as web-only titles providing a further option for marketing spend.

Advertisers may be taking the ‘Aldi’ approach to advertising; going for cheaper options rather than higher priced advertising in titles with larger staff numbers.

And let’s not forget the ubiquitous digital channel that will be found in the armoury of any self-respecting marketer, social media.

Having embraced the cost-free marketing platforms offered by social media, many marketers are finding that, in reality, it’s not exactly a no cost form of marketing; it needs to be resourced, either internally or externally, and it’s also a lot hungrier than old fashioned print media. It needs more regular content, often daily or multiple times a day, to avoid the perception of a company being ‘disengaged’ from its followers and friends. This resourcing needs to be paid for out of the marketing budget.

The marketing landscape is anything but clear and it will continue to be so for a number of years yet. There are too many potential outlets vying for the same prospective audience and there is a lack of knowledge, particularly amongst the digital channels, as to the precise profile of their active users.

Another thing that’s not helping marketers is the reluctance of the economy to really pick up as it ‘should’ after a recession. The current recovery is slower and more elongated than any of its predecessors, even The Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s.

It makes it harder to judge if the marketing you are doing is having the desired effect compared with years gone by, because the return on investment (i.e. additional business gained through marketing) may be much lower than it used to be.

However, we are where we are. Marketers must find a way of navigating round the lack of clarity and ‘certainty’ they were used to in the old days, and establish an optimum marketing mix within the new media order.

For some, like a number of our own clients, this may include the development of their own digital publications, delivered directly to the people they most want to reach.

In this new media landscape, its important to find the clarity through the fog to ensure that your messages are hitting the target and your marketing is as effective as it can be.

Categories: Opinion Marketing