Yesterday was a good day for trade journalism

7 June 2006

Paul Conley wrote yesterday, after seeing coverage of a report on the much maligned press release overtaking trade mags in importance, that it was a bad day for B2B journalism*.

I think it's the reverse. Unfortunately, it's a good day after quite a few bad years. It means trade magazines have a lot of fighting back to do but if it means giving the majority of releases the heave-ho rather than paying lip service to dealing with them, I'm happy. The releases can go straight to the search engines - I don't have much of a problem with that. It means that those publishers who sell purely on the basis of selling ads to people their magazines cover are in deep trouble. Those that either concentrate on readership for more independent material or on being more efficient, comprehensive aggegators than the horizontal search engines have more of a business model. Curiously, the report says, according to Information Week, that search does not work all that well - which makes you wonder how the respondents were coming across those releases.

There is one other point to bear in mind about a survey like this. The answer you get depends on how the original question is phrased. I know from experience of surveys done by publishers that the results can vary dramatically. Asked about information that is important, B2B readers will often point to the little-loved product section of a mag - often just a collection of barely edited releases - saying "they need to keep abreast of products and services that are useful to them". Ask them what they spend the most time reading or want to read, that section is rarely high on the list.

That is why I always distinguish between need-to-know and want-to-know material when planning magazines, features or news. The two are very different and, luckily, want-to-know material coincides more often with what successful magazines produce. Directories and automated services more often fall into the former category.

* A quick footnote as I suddenly remembered that it was not just the report that Paul Conley was referring to, but the closure of Amusement Business in the US. So, it's not all good. But, then again, mags do reach the end of their natural life for reasons other than the Internet. I would imagine Gaslighter's Gazette kind of ran out of wick quite quickly.