Consumer print may be dying, but don’t write off the trade press

With naysayers continuing to predict the demise of print Nick Green argues the trade press should not be tarred with the same brush as consumer media.

Trade media is a powerful thing, and I bet that you also read your trade media while at work – it’s probably where you are right now reading this, and it’s where I read mine. But why are we having to spend so long explaining the function of the trade press to advertisers?



I have spent the last two years of my career in printed trade media. Currently, I am editor of Convenience World – a title that communicates with and informs 12,865 convenience retailers, petrol stations, newsagents and tobacconists. It is a popular title in the trade, with engaged and responsive readers.

Through engaging objective research partners, as well as reflecting on our own consumption habits and experiences, we have discovered that the magazines’ audience like to read the information pertinent to their job, while they are at work.

Despite a loyal audience and an established title, a lot of current and prospective clients think the sweeping ideology that ‘print is dead’ applies across the board.

It really doesn’t.

You may right now be sitting in front of your computer, undecided as to whether you are malingering, or investing time into understanding the part of the media and marketing umbrella you fall into; honing your craft. You are decided on how you will respond if the boss asks.

You will probably not be reading this trade site during your free time. Those rare and quiet moments, where you have the opportunity to indulge content pertaining to your personal interests or hobbies.

FMCG marketers – my side of trade publishing’s clients, hear incessantly from their agency partners or in op-ed and news analysis (often on marketing trade  news sources like this one) that print is an antiquated medium that offers inferior ROI and little tractability.

There are of course counter arguments, often from those with vested interests in physical formats, but you don’t need to be Joe Marketing to see the writing [text] on the wall [connected device].

Certainly the printed media has seen better days. Newspaper and magazine  declines may be steadying, but the new marketing paradigm we always seem on the cusp of, is not quite yet done evolving. Print seems yet to find a comfortable or certain place in the marketing mix. Erosion of once champagne and cocaine rate cards enjoyed by the consumer facing print media continues, audit on audit.

If we are talking consumer facing marketing, print is not going back to where it was.

In 2014, a print only above the line campaign is not going to produce the results and measurability to keep various brand managers in their jobs, and agency accounts incumbent. Printed consumer newspapers and magazines might form part of a campaign, but should rarely ever constitute its entirety.

However; as we agreed earlier, you like reading your trade information while you are at work, and so too do my readers.

The difference between the audience of titles like Convenience World and you is that they are not afforded the time to sit in front of a Macintosh reading trade information. They could lose their jobs, or at the very least, some customers. The insight of working readers is empirically true of competing titles in Convenience World’s space, and the publisher’s sister titles focussed on the grocery and pharmacy trade.

The problem: Agencies are steering clients away from print and towards the superior CPM’s of the modern and data rich world of digital, while TVC’s do their thing and OOH continues to grow, with experiential and ambient campaigns continuing to develop their popularity. (Conversely, you may live in a media bubble – one of my favourite articles, give Parramatta a visit, you wimps).

Compounding on advice to steer away from print; Trade media’s FMCG supplier clients are trading in a highly pressured market. Coles and Woolworths are demanding mistresses. Supplier margins are getting thinner as they turn to what they call ‘the volume drug’.

Suppliers are also losing share of category to private label brands from Aldi and Costco. To the other side, independents are demanding a better deal. All the while parallel imports are gouging holes in their businesses. In these established and often manufacturing businesses, marketing budgets are being reduced.

Trade media, is not ignorant to or arrogant about the shift to the digital platform.

Convenience World offers e-newsletters, social profiles, and other digital products. The fantastic accountability that digital provides told us in flashing lights; this is not really working. Uptake was low and time was wasted. The only people we were impressing were marketers.

The audience didn’t care, and once the marketers saw the digital figures they stopped caring too. This was not due to a failure on our part to create compelling content, but a lack of audience interest in the platform. From lamenting with similar trade publishers; this seems to be an issue with many B2B publications, servicing audiences who prefer their information on paper.

Circulation, engagement and readership grow but our rate card decreases. FMCG trade marketing budgets disappear while a new breed of marketer and media buyer enter the workforce, ignorant to the existence or function of trade media.

Time and money is being burnt just educating the market to the proposition, and even more making people understand why print is still relevant (and more relevant) in trade.

Our audience is a baby-boomer behind a counter or in a break room. They grab a trusted magazine to help them make their decision. They are not Googling, they are not checking a suppliers Facebook page, and they are not grabbing their iPads and downloading an e-zine. They grab the title that is specifically tooled for their trade. We know this because it is what our audience of stakeholders has told us. Stop telling the people that pay our bills otherwise, printed trade media is very much alive.

Nick Green is editor of Convenience World magazine

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