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Catalog and Publication Outlook : A Cautious New Year

December 2009 By Julie Greenbaum
Associate Editor
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A year of uncertainty is how many magazine and catalog printers might describe 2009. Amidst the rising cost of postal rates and major cutbacks, publishers and catalogers have been forced to reevaluate their marketing and business strategies. Companies in both sectors looked at cost reduction, how to gain stronger customer loyalty and better ROIs, as well as adopting multi-channel strategies.

With a double-digit decline in both ad revenue and ad pages for B2B and consumer magazines, publishers were forced to cut back wherever they could, whether that was through staffing reductions, outsourcing, vendor consolidation and/or raising subscription prices.

"We have seen publishers discontinue non-performing titles either completely, or reduce frequency, run counts or move them to a Web-only environment at a much faster pace than in the past," explains Rick Marcoux, president of RR Donnelley Magazine and Commercial Services.

Marcoux asserts that RR Donnelley's magazine customers felt the full breadth of this as newsstand sales continued to decline.

In looking back on 2009 and ahead to 2010, there is little optimism because many of these same issues will plague the magazine sector in the new year. At the top of the list will still be cost pressures, as publishers continue to struggle with the decline of advertising and subscription revenues.

"Advertisers' budgets will remain tight, and magazines will be challenged to address the ROI metrics required to maintain their share of overall ad and marketing dollars," Marcoux predicts.

"There will also be a continued migration of ad spend to online initiatives, even though online will remain a small portion of the combined print and digital ad spend. Publishers will continue to focus on ways to determine the right balance of print and online, as well as to search for ways to monetize their digital assets."

Multi-channel strategies have grown to be a viable approach among magazine publishers, and will continue in the coming year. The consensus among publication printers is that both Websites and e-magazines will remain complementary to their customers' printed products.

Bolstering the Brand

"Success will require being able to surround the printed magazine with complementary, cross-distribution services that enhance the magazine's brand and present more advertising revenue opportunities," contends Bruce Jensen, vice president of sales for Transcontinental's Book, Catalog and Magazine groups in Montreal.

"Print is instrumental in driving sales both directly and indirectly in today's multi-channel marketplace, and has particular advantages in the acquisition stage where marketers gain permission for an expanded digital relationship."

 

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