Business Equation Doesn't Ad Up
After more than 80 years, one of our oldest rivals, Graphic Arts Monthly (GAM), has ceased publication. Its last day of existence was officially April 30. Its parent, Reed Business (RBI), decided not to sell the publication, which will now go quietly into that good night.
As a journalist and as a reader of magazines, I find it painful when a publication I've long followed bites the dust. Or changes its format — not size, but editorial direction. When this happened one time with another publication, I called circulation, told them I was dropping my 'script, then spent a minute or two recounting how the magazine I loved was going to crap. Of course, the circ woman was probably rolling her eyes and playing Tetris, but it made me feel better.
It behooves you, the printer, print buyer or industry vendor, to be reading all of the major titles that speak to your business. Heck, even the ancillary pubs should be sitting on your desk. After all, they're free to those who qualify. And when you think about it, GAM's demise is somewhat your fault; it's all our faults.
We don't charge for content, thus all of our fortunes are tied into advertising revenue. Clearly, the industry could not support three major titles from an ad standpoint. Would a $49.95 per year subscription price have saved GAM? That would've given them about $3.5 million a year extra, no small peanuts in the B2B game.
But that's not how the game is played, is it? And frankly, the rules aren't about to change. You would scream bloody murder at the thought of forking over what amounts to $4 a month to read GAM or anything else. It's in your blood to deny cost increases, even the most reasonable or nominal of fees.
In fact, no one can pass on costs in the printing industry. The paper and consumables people dread trying to implement increases, because their competitors are cut-throat. You struggle to pass them on to the print buyer because your rivals are ready to under bid. Neighboring shops outbid you for jobs with quotes so ridiculous that you know they sure as hell aren't going to follow the specs, or they're going to cut costs somewhere. It's all survival instincts.
The printing industry and B2B magazines are both fighting excess capacity and competing for shrinking ad dollar spends. The fact that you and I are still standing indicates that our respective companies have endured bitter and vicious business conditions, and will emerge from the economic slump stronger and even more bulletproof to future recessions.
But, while the rules may not change, the game is taking on a new form. The death of a longtime product such as GAM signifies that we have embarked on a new generation of B2B publishing. Better? Maybe not. But certainly different.