Magazine chiefs mean business on B2B campaign

By Ian Reeves

They’re twice the size of commercial radio. They’re bigger than
consumer magazines. They’re worth more than £13bn a year in revenue.
And they reckon it’s about time they got a bit more recognition.

You might not call the publishers of the UK’s business magazines the
sleeping gorillas of media – not to their faces anyway – but it would
be fair enough to say that, in terms of the amount of noise in the
wider media world, they haven’t exactly been known for overt displays
of wild chest-beating.

But the cage is about to get something of
a rattling in the form of a campaign from the business sector to make
politicians, advertisers, business decision makers and even other
journalists think again about the power, impact and creativity of the
magazines they produce.

At this week’s Periodical Publishers
Association conference, Bernard Gray, chief executive of CMPi, kicked
off the strategy with news of an advertising campaign worth £3.2m and a
new name for the PPA’s business publishing division, which will now be
known as PPA Professional.

The previous week, Gray had joined
Reed Business Information chief executive Keith Jones and Incisive
Media’s chief executive Tim Weller to explain, on behalf of the 16 PPA
Professional member companies, why this drive to improve the exposure
of the business publishing medium is so long overdue.

It is a
display of togetherness that grew out of the publishers working closely
together to combat some “grief with the Royal Mail” and realising they
could harness that unity in a way that was positive for all business
magazines.

“We all feel very strongly that this is a highly
professional, highly creative part of the publishing industry – a much
bigger part than a lot of people realise – that doesn’t get the
recognition it deserves for that,” says Gray, adding: “We don’t make
enough noise about it.”

Biggest contributor

A yet-to-be published report, Connecting Business, prepared by NOP
Business and sponsored by the DTI, will confirm what Gray says. The
report estimates total sales at more than £13bn for 2004 – a figure
that includes conferences, exhibitions, directories and other related
activities. Magazine publishing is the single biggest contributor to
the total, accounting for more than £3bn.

The report also estimates a sales growth of 10 per cent for business
magazines this year and a 14 per cent growth for the B2B sector
overall, which would take its revenue close to £15bn in 2005. These
figures, it should be noted, are based on publishers’ guesses for the
year ahead. It also says that 53 per cent of survey respondents
expected staff numbers to increase over the next two years. Only one
per cent forecast a decrease.

Business publishing already employs
a total of 352,000 people. Magazines account for the highest proportion
of this with 65,663 staff. The survey does not break this down by job
function, but if we assume that, on average, between a fifth and a
quarter of these are journalists – that’s 13,000 reporters, subs,
editors, photographers and designers. This is considerably more than
work for the country’s national newspapers and, as Jones puts it drily,
“a few more than worked for Rover”.

Self-belief

The perception of the quality of these journalists, many of them
highly knowledgable specialists, needs to be addressed not only
externally but also, says Gray – who describes himself as a “retired
journalist” – among the people within the sector itself. He says his
company, for example, has worked hard to instil more self-belief into
its journalists, some of whom had “somehow persuaded themselves that
they were not as good as they really were”.

And yet the amount of clout that business magazines have, not just
on the leaders of the industries they cover, but on government policy
too, should not be underestimated.

There is no shortage of
examples of what Weller describes as the “amazing influence” that
editors and their teams can wield in the corridors of power.

Property
Week, Computer Weekly and Pulse are three titles that have influenced
Government thinking on key issues and there are hundreds more that can
make similar claims. “I’m not sure they are credited enough for those,”
says Jones, noting some more figures from NOP’s survey: 71 per cent of
decision makers believe B2B magazines are essential reading; 95 per
cent of farmers read at least one farming title; 87 per cent of
managers read B2B titles regularly.

But arguably the three chief
executives’ most important message for journalists is the scope
that their businesses offer for fulfilling careers. In particular, they
claim the opportunities for women are particularly high. More than 50
per cent of the sector’s workforce is female, and Gray says the number
of women at editor and publisher level is higher than comparable parts
of the non-business publishing industry. CMPi’s editorial director, for
example, is Lindsay Cook, a former Times business editor.

“It’s
not just about getting a great training and then buggering off,” says
Weller. “The potential for ambitious people to build their careers in a
professional, enormously creative environment is just fantastic.”


Press Gazette is always keen to hear more from business magazine
journalists. Contact Alyson Fixter (alysonf@pressgazette.co.uk) with
your stories.

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